The optimism surrounding the Mount Desert Island football team was cautious at best at the beginning of the 2008 season.
It wasn’t for lack of confidence — the Trojans went 5-3 during the last two regular seasons, followed by two straight trips to the Pine Tree Conference Class B playoffs.
But in a league considered perhaps the deepest in the state this year, MDI’s early schedule was considered most demanding, with its first four weeks featuring games against Winslow, Morse of Bath, Waterville and Hampden Academy — fellow postseason contenders all.
Consider it a collective challenge met, for the Trojans have rebounded from an opening-week loss to Winslow with three straight wins, and now rank among the conference leaders with their 3-1 record.
“We’re pleased,” said MDI coach Mark Shields. “We knew going in there were people who thought we were going to be 0-4 at this point, but it seems like one of those years when on any night just about any team is capable of winning.
“It’s a scary and exciting year for that reason alone.”
The Trojans are blessed with several key playmakers, all armed with plenty of experience.
Senior Tyler Crawford runs the team’s offense, which has added a T-formation to its I-set, and the third-year starter has been one of the PTC’s most accurate passers, as evidenced by his 8-for-9 effort good for 191 yards and two touchdowns in Friday’s 13-12 win over Hampden.
The Trojans also feature three quality running backs in Jasper Cousins, Odane Gaynor and Terrence Jones, all of whom have had success both rushing and catching the football behind an experienced offense line.
“Our offensive line does a good job of giving those guys some holes to run through,” said Shields. “And not only can they run the ball, but they can catch the ball, too, and we’ve got a quarterback who throws the ball well and has done a good job with the play-action pass.”
MDI’s defense has been led by linebackers Camden Fernald and Cousins, who rank among the PTC’s leading tacklers. Cousins’ performance has been perhaps the most surprising, only because the converted strong safety wasn’t even sure he’d be able to play this season due to back-related concerns.
“He’s just tenacious,” said Shields of Cousins. “He’s not a real big kid, but he’s a tough kids who works real hard. He’s a tackling machine.
“Camden is a real physical kid who likes contact,” added Shields. “He had a real nice game for us against Hampden.”
MDI faces another test Saturday on the road against Oak Hill of Sabattus. Then comes an exhibition game against Camden Hills of Rockport, followed by matchups against Nokomis of Newport and Belfast to round out the regular-season schedule.
“The kids have been super positive,” said Shields. “They’re really believing in themselves and in what we’re trying to do, while also understanding we have a long way to go to be the team we want to be.”