Maine Central Institute ball carrier Tucker Sharples tries to shake off Hermon defender Garrett Trask during a Class C North game last week in Pittsfield. File photo by Jennifer Bechard

The Maine Central Institute offense struggled early in Friday’s 29-25 win over Hermon. The Huskies picked up 57 yards on their first four possessions, but turned the ball over twice in Hermon territory, including once at the Hawks 21. When MCI took the ball at its own 41 with 7:23 left in the second quarter, it trailed 12-0. It took a move to old school football to get the Huskies going.

Starting with an eight yard run by Kempton Roy on that pivotal second quarter drive, the Huskies never put the ball in the air again. They never had to. MCI scored a touchdown on four of the final six drives. After scoring on three consecutive possessions, an early fourth quarter drive stalled with another turnover. After a game-winning scoring drive, MCI’s final possession ended with the game’s conclusion.

In all, the final 45 plays run by the Huskies offense were running plays. This includes a 20 yard run by punter Will Russell, which kept MCI’s first scoring drive alive late in the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Friend attempted just three passes in the win, each incomplete.

The Huskies can throw the ball. In the three games leading up to the Hermon game, Friend had 369 yards passing and three touchdown throws. Against then undefeated Hermon, MCI coach Tom Bertrand quickly figured out his team’s best path to victory was on the ground, between the tackles.

“We needed to get back to just basics. We needed to do our power football game, and line up with two tights and a wing and just pound the ball,” Bertrand said.

The Huskies averaged just over five and a half yards per carry against the Hawks. Nineteen of MCI’s 21 first downs came from the start of that pivotal second quarter scoring drive, when the Huskies cut Hermon’s lead to 12-7, through the rest of the game.

The win kept defending Class C state champ MCI (3-1) in first place in the Class C North standings. The Huskies play at Old Town (2-2) Friday. Bertrand said a playoff rematch with Hermon wouldn’t be a surprise.

“There’s a lot of tough football teams. One way or another, we’re going to see that football team again,” Bertrand said.

• • •

Saturday’s 26-21 win over Waterville was a test of Nokomis’ ability to adapt in a tough situation, coach Jake Rogers said. By mounting the game-winning scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, then forcing a Waterville turnover with 59 seconds left, the Warriors passed.

On the two drives immediately prior to the game winning march, the Warriors made it into Waterville territory but came away with nothing. After the Purple Panthers took a 21-20 lead late in the third quarter, a Nokomis drive ended with a turnover. After forcing a Waterville turnover, the Warriors reached the Panthers 31 before giving the ball back on downs.

After a Waterville punt, Nokomis put together the go ahead scoring drive, retaking the lead when Alex Costedio caught a nine yard pass from Andrew Haining. Chance Graves’ interception at his own 18 ended the Panthers final threat.

To Rogers, the win was proof the Warriors are learning to fight through adversity, which includes injuries and a small roster.

“We’ve just got to keep adapting to what we have,” Rogers said.

Next up for Nokomis is a Friday night trip to undefeated Leavitt (4-0) for a crossover game against the Class C South favorite.

“They’re good. They’re a perennial. Coach (Mike) Hathaway’s been there, I don’t even know how long. It seems like forever,” Rogers said. “They like to spread it out but they want to run the ball too. They want to use their size to their advantage. We’ll just have to counter it. We’ll have to match up to them.”

• • •

A young Winslow team made strides with its second half effort in Friday’s 26-14 win at Mt. Desert Island, coach Mike Siviski said.

“We just tightened up and stopped making mistakes,” Siviski said. “The first half was sketchy. We had opportunities to score and we didn’t.”

The Black Raiders (3-1) had touchdown drives of 94 and 80 yards, and ran for 265 yards as a team. Ben Dorval led the way with 120 yards.

Next up for Winslow is a non-conference game against traditional rival Lawrence. Last season, these teams met for the first time since 1990, with Lawrence taking a 24-14 win.

• • •

Messalonskee is 0-4, but the Eagles are showing improvement each week. Friday, Messalonskee lost a tight game to Hampden, 46-42, when the Broncos scored the winning touchdown in the game’s closing seconds. Hampden also had a 98-yard punt return for a touchdown in the game.

“We’re young. But we are seeing better things every week. It’s just a matter of putting it all together for a whole game now,” Bishop said.

While the defense struggled, the game was step in the right direction for the Eagles, who previously had not scored more than 12 points in a game.

With just three seniors on the roster, Messalonskee is the youngest team in the Pine Tree Conference Class B division. The Eagles play a crossover game at Gorham Friday.

“We just don’t have enough upperclassmen to get kids a break. I’m not making excuses, it just the way it is,” Bishop said.

• • •

Around the state: Top to bottom, no league in the state matches Class D South when it comes to competitive depth. Wells and Lisbon are both 4-0, and the other six teams in the league are each 2-2. Things will begin to shake out this week, with big games in the conference being Oak Hill at Madison and Spruce Mountain at Poland… Speaking of Wells and Lisbon, those undefeated teams play each other in this week’s version of the game of the year, Friday night in Wells… With the win over Messalonskee, Hampden snapped a 15-game losing streak.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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