PITTSFIELD, Maine — The Maine Central Institute football team has seen quite the turnaround over the past couple of years.
The Huskies were able to follow up an LTC semifinal run in 2010 with another playoff berth in 2011, but head coach Tom Bertrand believes his boys are capable of taking it to the next level this season.
“We’re hoping for some bigger things this year from these guys,” Bertrand said. “If we can get some leadership from our older guys and have the younger players step up to make plays, then we can be right there at the end again.”
The other key for the Huskies on the field will be the ability to move the ball with authority, something Bertrand said the team struggled with late last season.
“Not to say that our focus has been on offense, but we know that we have to have some clean, penalty-free drives to put some points on the board,” he said
MCI will depend on senior quarterback Patrick Noonan to create the continuity they are looking for on offense. Noonan and junior wing back Tanner Littlefield have now had a full year together and been able to develop a rapport that will hopefully translate into an offensive spark and points for the Huskies.
The offense also will seek contributions from weapons like sophomore tight end Mitchell Hallee and sophomore fullback Eric Hathaway.
Hallee is currently recovering from injury, but Hathaway is a player Bertrand believes is poised for a big year after some glimpses last season and a good camp.
“He’s a young guy that has benefitted from a little experience last year and we are hoping that time helps produce an awful lot for us this year,” he said.
While the offensive production is expected to increase, the defense still remains a bit suspect after a rough ending to last season.
“We had a pretty good scheme, but it was just a matter of us not executing it,” Bertrand said. “I’m confident the defense will be able to take care of itself this season.”
Bertrand has seen growing pains through offseason workouts thus far, but it hasn’t hampered the team’s development too much and issues have been resolved quickly.
“We’re playing a lot of young guys and it has definitely shown a little bit,” Bertrand said. “We’re just building on both what we are trying to do and our confidence as a team so that we have it all together later in the year.”
The one aspect that has stayed consistent for the Huskies has been the team chemistry. The team has been without a star player, which has benefitted the team-building process.
“We have a bunch of guys that we are going to count on and having them gel together is going to be huge,” Bertrand said. “Further developing that team concept and unselfishness is really going to bode well for us going forward.”
Orono beat MCI 58-8 in a mutual opener Friday night.
2011 results: 4-5, lost in LTC quarterfinal to Orono
Coach/year: Tom Bertrand/10th
Key Players: Patrick Noonan, QB-DB, Sr.; Tanner Littlefield, WR-DB, Jr.; Mitchell Hallee, TE-DE, So.; Eric Hathaway, FB-LB, So.; Briar Bussell OL-DL Jr.
Outlook: MCI came back to earth a bit last season, but should bounce back nicely with key returning veterans. After a full year of learning the offense, Noonan must lead the offense up the field with efficiency and ease, but also take a leadership role on the sidelines to make the Huskies successful. The defense may be able to work itself out, but it must do so quickly or they will be left in the dust by high-powered offenses like Orono, Bucksport and John Bapst.