Staff file photo by Michael G. Seamans Nokomis head coach Jake Rogers talks to his players before a practice earlier this season in Newport. The Warriors play rival Maine Central Institute on Friday night in Pittsfield.

Football rivalries are born from competitive games or proximity. With that in mind, Maine Central Institute and Nokomis have everything covered.

It’s approximately 10 miles from MCI’s Pittsfield campus to Nokomis’ school in Newport. As for competition, these teams met twice last season, in the regular season and again in the first round of Class C North playoffs, with MCI winning a pair of close games. The schools share a boys lacrosse team. So yeah, it’s a rivalry.

“It’s a healthy rivalry,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said. “These kids compete against each other in a lot of sports, and a lot of them are friends.”

Bertrand’s Huskies (6-1) enter Friday night’s game winners of six in a row, and look to enter the playoffs as the region’s top seed. Nokomis (4-3) can jump to third place with a win, but should be at home for the first round again next week.

“They’re next door. It’s a natural rival. I keep telling the kids, it’s just a week eight game. It’s got to be,” Nokomis coach Jake Rogers said. “You can’t make the game bigger than it is.”

Here’s a closer look at the Nokomis-MCI matchup:

When: 7 tonight

Where: Alumni Field, Pittsfield.

Nokomis coach Jake Rogers on MCI: “They’re big. They’re physical. They execute at a high level. They’re not going to make foolish mistakes. What they do is not overly complicated, but they execute it at such a high level, where if you’re just a little off, they’re going to make you pay.”

MCI coach Tom Bertrand on Nokomis: “They’re pretty athletic. They have a lot of ways to move the ball. Everything is spearheaded by their quarterback (Andrew Haining). They present lots of challenges. Defensively, they’re active and aggressive. They’re a top four team in our league for a reason.”

Three keys for Nokomis:

• Back to the line.

Unlike many teams that use a no huddle or hurry up offense, MCI will line up quickly and run hard between the tackles rather than spread the field. Nokomis defenders need to regroup quickly after each play, and immediately be ready for the next one.

“We don’t sub in many guys. Our kids are expected to know where to line up. Defensively for us, call-wise it’s not that complex for us,” Rogers said. “Our guys know, you’d better get ready, because it’s coming. And it’s going to keep coming.”

• Be aggressive.

The Huskies strength is smashmouth football, with back Seth Bussell, Tucker Sharples, and Kempton Roy. Nokomis has to be able to match that physicality.

“They might not beat anybody in a 40 (yard dash),” Rogers said of MCI’s skill players, “but if you make them run through a wall, I’m pretty sure they’ll win that battle.”

• Be confident.

MCI is Nokomis’ third one loss opponent this season. If nothing else, the Warriors have been battle tested this season. They know they can play with the best teams in Class C. Now, Nokomis has to show it. Beyond MCI’s physical talent, the Huskies are as mentally tough as any team in the state, Rogers said.

“Their kids just believe. They believe that they’re going to win every game, and that does a lot. Belief is a great thing to have,” Rogers said.

Three keys for MCI:

• Don’t reinvent the wheel.

MCI has nine players averaging at least four yards per carry. The Huskies have turned themselves into a dominant power running team. At this point in the season, as nights get colder, there’s no reason to go away from that.

“We try to get better and better at that each week,” Bertrand said. “We’ve found our niche.”

• Pressure the pocket.

Haining has 799 yards passing for the Warriors, throwing nine touchdowns. Chance Graves averages 19 yards per catch, and has four touchdown grabs. Led by TJ Kuespert (4.5 sacks) and Bussell (four sacks), the Huskies line needs to get pressure on Haining and limit the time he has to find Graves and other talented receivers downfield.

• Eyes on the goal.

A win ensures MCI is home for the first two rounds of the regional playoffs. The Big 11 Conference elected to hold its championship game at neutral site Hampden Academy this season. The Huskies would like to be home until that game.

“We want to have home field throughout. We want to make sure we seize that opportunity. We don’t want to leave our fate to chance,” Bertrand said.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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