With his team trailing Cape Elizabeth last week, Wells football coach Tim Roche looked around and liked what he saw.

“I saw no panic, no doubts,” Roche said. “I actually laughed. I said ‘This is what we hoped for, a game,'” Roche said.

Wells rallied to take a 34-33 victory, the Warriors’ 32nd straight. Now, the Warriors face another test, this time an unfamiliar opponent in Maine Central Institute. Like Wells, MCI has been a perennial contender in recent seasons. Both schools won state titles in 2016, MCI in Class D and Wells in Class C. Each won a Gold Ball again in 2017, only switching classes, MCI in Class C and Wells in Class D. Wells won Class D again last season, and with reclassification is back in Class C. After passing each other in the classification shuffle, the 4-0 Huskies and 4-0 Warriors now can finally meet in a Class C crossover game that could potentially be a state championship game preview.

“They’re 32-0 for a reason. You look at their sideline, and you see the sheer number of kids they have in their program,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said. “We know that’s what it’s going to take to win this football game. We’re prepared for that, and we’re excited for that.”

This is the first meeting between Wells and MCI in at least a generation.

“I go back 27 years (at Wells) and I don’t remember playing them,” Roche said.

Here’s a look at the Wells-MCI matchup:

When: 7 tonight

Where: Alumni Field, Pittsfield

Three keys for Wells:

  • Special teams.

Cape Elizabeth scored a pair of special teams touchdowns in last week’s close call with the Warriors. Roche knows his team can’t give the Huskies those same opportunities.

“Believe me, we’ve been working on that all week,” Roche said.

  • With Friends like these…

MCI quarterback Ryan Friend is a dual threat. A three-year starter, the junior has 728 yards passing with 12 touchdown throws. Friend also leads the Huskies in rushing with 340 yards, with a pair of running touchdowns. MCI has a lot of offensive weapons, but containing the Huskies starts with containing Friend.

“Their quarterback is good. I love their O-line. They’re a tough team,” Roche said.

“The fact that he’s a junior and has been playing for three years, he has that experience not a lot of kids get. Ryan, he’s not just a football player, he’s a student of the game. He’s probably watched more film that I have this season. He’s a leader for us,” Bertrand said.

  • Stay cool.

With wins in tight games this season over Winslow (18-6) and Cape Elizabeth, the Warriors know they can handle some adversity. That said, both those games were at home on Warrior Memorial Field. This will be Wells’ first road test, with another at Leavitt next week. Keeping its collective head on unfamiliar turf will be important.

Three keys for MCI:

  • Wrap party

The Huskies face a challenge defending Wells. The Warriors have a deep backfield, and senior Payton MacKay is the cornerstone of a strong running attack. MacKay has 13 touchdowns, with at least two in each game and four in last week’s come-from-behind win. In the last two games, MacKay had seven touchdowns, six coming on plays of more than 40 yards. Roche pointed at a touchdown in which MacKay was met by a horde of defenders, and drove them 10 yards into the end zone.

“(MacKay) just tries to find a seam or gets to the edge. He just keeps those legs going… You’d better hit him, and you’d better have more than one or two guys at the point of attack, because he’ll make you pay for it. He’s not the only back that they’ve got. They’re a three- or four-headed monster,” Bertrand said.

  • Start fast, finish faster.

Bertrand noted there’s been a few teams that have managed to take an early lead on Wells. As Wells has proven over and over, that momentum is difficult to hold on to when the Warriors are chock full of big play potential on every snap.

“The Poland game and the Cape game, both of those teams scored on Wells first, and that didn’t slow down Wells at all. It’s important, but you’d better be able to maintain it,” Bertrand said. “That game last week was a testament to that.”

  • Forty-eight minutes

Like Wells, MCI has been on the positive end of many blowouts. This game likely won’t be lopsided, so the Huskies need to be ready to do something they’re not asked often to do: play a complete game.

“The first few weeks we haven’t had to compete as much as we’re going to need to every single play,” Bertrand said. “Make sure we’re staying on blocks. Make sure we’re running to the ball. Making sure we’re finishing plays. You can become complacent if you’re not challenged week in and week out. They’re going to show up and they’re going to challenge us.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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