Anybody with a stronger sense of Maine’s high school football history is welcome to correct me, but as Maine Central Institute celebrates its second straight state championship, one thought comes to mind.

What the Huskies just did is unprecedented.

For a few hours between Friday night and Saturday afternoon, the Huskies were reigning champion in both Class C and D. That ended when Wells and Foxcroft Academy kicked off at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium. Last season, MCI won the Class D state title on the final play of the season. Friday night at the University of Maine, the Huskies didn’t need any last second magic. This time, the run that started with a win at Nokomis in the Class C North quarterfinals culminated when they steamrolled Cape Elizabeth, 30-13. When a big play was needed, it was MCI making it. When momentum was there for the taking, it was MCI seizing it.

Plenty of teams have won back-to-back state titles. Oak Hill recently won three in a row. In 2014-15, we saw back-to-back champions in all four classes. What MCI did to win this second Gold Ball in as many years is what sets it apart.

MCI is the first Maine high school football team since Marshwood in 1988 and 1989 to win a state championship at a lower class, move up a class in competition, and win the Gold Ball again. Winning a title is hard enough when you have background against your opponents. When you’re learning on the job, with little to no institutional memory, it’s that much more difficult.

Now add this little wrinkle: MCI had to do it all on the road. As the six seed in the Class C North playoffs, the Huskies began each playoff rally with a bus ride. First, a short trip, one exit up I-95 to take on No. 3 Nokomis. It was the only playoff game MCI played against a team it beat in the regular season. It wasn’t easy, but the Huskies left Newport with a 33-24 win.

A trip to Winslow’s Poulin Field followed. The Black Raiders had not lost a home playoff game in almost a decade. A couple weeks prior, Winslow won a regular season game at MCI, 32-29.

MCI won 43-42.

A trip to top-seed Mt. Desert Island for the conference championship game was a rematch of a contest in which the Huskies were thoroughly outclassed in late September. The Trojans built a huge lead, won 35-24, and left little doubt it was the best team in the region, at the time.

MCI went to Bat Harbor and took a 27-6 win.

MCI’s opponent in the state championship game, Cape Elizabeth, handed the Huskies a lopsided 35-15 loss in the regular season.

On Friday night in Orono, MCI never trailed the Capers. Another regular season loss was avenged. In the postseason, the Huskies were Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather, settling all scores.

Remember, MCI’s season started with a 38-14 loss at Oceanside. At the time, it appeared as if the Huskies were just another Class D team that was going to learn the hard way that stumbles were inevitable in a step up.

You think MCI would like another crack at Oceanside?

In the regular season, MCI had just two wins against teams that made the playoffs. The Huskies beat Nokomis, the team they beat again in the regional quarterfinals to start this historic playoff run, and they beat Foxcroft Academy, which played Wells for the Class D state title Saturday afternoon.

In Class C North playoffs, MCI trailed in each game. They used grit, hustle and guile to rally in each game. Against Winslow, a fake punt from midfield in the middle of the third quarter, after the Black Raiders had cut a 15-point deficit to three, tipped momentum back toward MCI. At Mt. Desert Island, another fake punt in the third quarter, this time from their own 20, continued what became the Huskies’ game-defining drive. Twenty plays, 88 yards, and close to 10 minutes of clock time peeled away, and MCI scored to push an eight-point lead to 14. MDI was supposed to do that to opponents, yet there was MCI effectively icing the game.

In the trophy case at MCI, there is now a matching set of Gold Balls. When the Huskies look at the 2017 Gold Ball, they’ll know the improbable path they took to win it. The 2017 MCI playoff run will go down as one of the most impressive in Maine high school sports history.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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