PITTSFIELD — With the game on the line, Maine Central Institute football coach Tom Bertrand put the game in the hands of his defense.

With the ball first in overtime against rival Nokomis, MCI took a 24-21 lead on a 21-yard field goal by Kyle Burger-Roy. That meant the Huskies had to keep the Warriors out of the end zone to preserve the win. On second down from the 4, Nokomis quarterback Andrew Haining rolled to his right, looking for Chance Graves in the back of the end zone. Haining’s pass was a little short, enabling Tyler Staples to intercept the pass and clinch the 24-21 MCI victory.

“We knew if it came down to that, that’s what we’d do. We had to put points on the board, and we had some confidence in our defense they’d make some plays tonight,” Bertrand said.

The win was the seventh straight for MCI (7-1), which will be the top seed in the Class C North playoffs. Nokomis, 4-4, will likely be the four seed.

The loss came after Nokomis rallied from a 21-0 first half deficit.

“We make mistakes, they make mistakes,” Nokomis coach Jake Rogers said. “You never know what can happen at the end.”

Nokomis tied the game with 8:36 left in the fourth quarter. After recovering an MCI fumble at the Nokomis 34, the Warriors needed one big play. Haining connected with Graves, who beat his defender down the left sideline for a 66-yard touchdown.

The tying score was the second time the Warriors capitalized on an MCI miscue. After Burger-Roy mishandled a pint snap to give the Warriors the ball on the Huskies 5, David Wilson scored on a 4-yard run to cut MCI’s lead to 21-14 in the final minute of the third quarter.

Seth Bussell’s 2 yard touchdown run capped MCI’s first drive and stake the Huskies to a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Huskies began to pull away in the second quarter, turning a pair of Nokomis turnovers into touchdowns. The first came when Will Russell scooped a Warrior fumble and ran untouched 79 yards for a score, giving MCI a 14-0 lead with 5:42 left in the half.

Nokomis fumbled the ball away again on its next possession. The Huskies took over at the Warrior 49, and needed seven plays to find the end zone. Bussell’s 7-yard TD run, his second touchdown of the game, gave MCI a 21-0 lead.

“We keep saying all year, we can’t have turnover and we can’t have bad possessions,” Rogers said. “And we did that in the first 14 minutes.”

Nokomis found life on the final play of the first half, when Graves (four catches for 133 yards) caught a 15-yard Haining pass for a score, cutting the Huskies lead to 21-7 at the break.

Nokomis did a better job at slowing MCI’s strong running attack in the second half. Bertrand said he saw the Warriors simply winning the battles at the line of scrimmage.

“They were beating our front. They were winning. We’ve got to find a way to counter that,” Bertrand said.

Rogers said that with his team’s lack of depth, the Warriors are unable to mimic an opponents speed or size in practice.

“We run into this with all our games,” Rogers said. “Speed-wise, it takes us a series and a half to see it and adjust.”

The Warriors has a chance to take the lead midway through the fourth, when a blocked punt by James Boyd gave Nokomis the ball at the MCI 22. The drive stalled, however, and the team’s traded possessions until overtime.

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