LINCOLN — The Maine Central Institute football team has thrived this season when it has forced the opposition into turnovers.
On a slick and misty Friday night at Curry Field, the Huskies capitalized again on such opportunism, inducing six turnovers by Mattanawcook Academy en route to a 19-8 victory over the Lynx in LTC play.
Third-quarter interceptions by Tyler Maloon, Ryan Gamblin and Adam Ogden and fumble recoveries by Kris Prout, Britton Moholland and Chris Reazor helped MCI limit MA to 111 total yards.
“Since the beginning of the year we’ve been a swarming defense and we want to be physical up front,” said Moholland, a fullback and linebacker for the Huskies. “And our smartest athletes are at the corners and at free safety. We apply the pressure up front, and it forces the quarterback to make bad throws and our corners are there to pick them off.”
The win should secure 4-3 MCI one of the eight available Eastern Maine Class C playoff berths, and coach Tom Bertrand’s club could still earn a quarterfinal on its home field with one regular-season game remaining against Mount View of Thorndike at Pittsfield next Friday. Mattanawcook’s playoff hopes grew dimmer, with the Lynx falling to 2-5 with a game left at Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft next Friday.
“(MA) definitely had their backs up against the wall, but this win is a big boost for us to get the playoff game we want,” said MCI defensive end Nick Leibowitz. “All week our mindset was to play for home-field advantage, and if we didn’t win this game we wouldn’t have the chance to do that.”
MCI took the lead for good on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter after Trey Vintinner returned the second-half kickoff 43 yards to the MA 44.
The Huskies, who started their offense under center throughout the first half amid the damp conditions, came out in a spread formation to open the third quarter. But instead of looking to throw the ball on first down, Moholland took a handoff and raced to the end zone to give MCI a 12-8 lead just 25 seconds into the period.
“We thought it was going to be a sloppy night, so we prepped for doing a lot of stuff under center,” Bertrand said. “We were effective with it early in the first half, but then they keyed on it, and when we saw that the weather was going to hold, we decided to open it up a little bit. The play was there, and he found the seam.”
Mattanawcook advanced the ball just once inside MCI territory after intermission, but after getting a first down at the Huskies’ 25 on the possession after Moholland’s touchdown, a mishandled snap from center resulted in a 10-yard loss. One play later Maloon intercepted a deep pass by MA quarterback Cody McDonald.
MCI added its final touchdown with 1:42 left in the contest on a 1-yard run by Maloon just after Ogden ran a counter play 40 yards to the MA 1.
MCI managed just 186 total yards in the physically played contest, with Moholland rushing for 61 yards on seven carries and Maloon adding 42 yards on 16 tries.
MA tailback Grady Markie, who rushed an LTC single-game record 49 times for 271 yards in a win at Calais-Woodland last Saturday, was limited to 72 yards on 26 carries by the Huskies’ defense.
“Our kids made plays, they were flying to the ball,” said Bertrand. “We bent but did not break. They’ve got some good backs and were able to move the ball a bit, but our kids made plays and when they put the ball in the air we’ve got some athletes who made some plays.
“Special teams and turnovers are two things we really work on, and it pays off.”
Prout’s fumble recovery came on MA’s third play from scrimmage in the game and set up a 43-yard, five-play drive climaxed by Reazor’s 16-yard quarterback keeper that gave MCI a 6-0 lead with 7:46 left in the opening quarter.
MA scored its lone touchdown with a 30-yard drive after an exchange of punts early in the second quarter. A 12-yard pass from from McDonald to Matt Murray gave the Lynx a first down at the 18, and MA later benefitted from an offsides penalty against MCI on fourth-and-1 at the 9. One play later, McDonald rolled right to score from 3 yards out and then ran the same play for the two-point conversion to give MA an 8-6 lead with 5:31 left in the first half.
HUSKIES 19, LYNX 8
MCI (4-3) 6-0-6-7—-19
Mattanawcook Acad. (2-5) 0-8-0-0——8
MCI-Reazor 16 run (kick failed)
MA-McDonald 3 run (McDonald rush)
MCI-Moholland 44 run (rush failed)
MCI-Maloon 1 run (Reazor kick)