ORONO, Maine — Bigger class? No big deal for the Maine Central Institute football team Friday night.
Coach Tom Bertrand’s club rushed for 371 yards and shut down Cape Elizabeth’s ground game as MCI — the Class D state champion in 2016 — captured the Class C state crown Friday night with a 30-13 victory over the Capers at Alfond Stadium on the campus of the University of Maine.
MCI, which started the season 2-3, won seven of its last eight games to finish the season at 8-4.
“That’s why you play the season,” said Bertrand. “We got healthy, we got better. We started to peak. Our kids came together and you just buckle down and good things happened.
“We’re very fortunate. I’m just ecstatic that the kids get this glory,” he said.
Cape Elizabeth, seeking its first state title, concluded its season with a 9-3 record.
Senior running back Adam Bertrand, the son of the coach, paced MCI’s offense by rushing for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, while backfield mate Pedro Matos added 143 yards — including a 93-yard touchdown burst — on 14 rushes, and fullback Seth Bussell contributed 56 yards on eight attempts as well as some punishing lead blocks.
“As late as [Friday] afternoon we didn’t know if we were going to run or throw,” said coach Bertrand, whose team avenged a 35-15 regular-season loss at Cape Elizabeth on Sept. 22. “We came out and did a little bit of both and the running game started to click.”
Cape Elizabeth fullback Ryan Weare, who rushed for 1,331 yards this season entering the game, was limited to 88 yards on 24 attempts.
Andrew Hartel, the Capers’ 6-foot-7 junior quarterback, completed 11 of 25 passes for 178 yards, with Josh Brydson making six catches for 128 yards.
MCI controlled the clock with a rushing attack that churned out 217 yards before intermission in building a 21-13 halftime lead.
Adam Bertrand led the way with 145 yards on 15 carries, including a 52-yard scoring run that capped off a five-play, 78-yard drive to open the game.
Devon Varney’s extra-point kick made it 7-0 just 1:42 into the contest.
Cape Elizabeth answered with a 63-yard scoring drive, with Hartel passing the final 16 yards to Brydson before Alex Morin kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 5:55 left in the opening period.
The Capers got the ball back at the MCI 42 when Matthew Laughlin recovered a fumble by Matos 42 seconds later but went three-and-out before punting the ball into the end zone.
MCI then drove 80 yards in eight plays to regain the lead at 14-7 on a 1-yard dive by Bertrand with 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
MCI drove deep into Cape Elizabeth territory on its next possession, but a Bertrand fumble was recovered by Weare to give the Capers possession at its 19 with 6:37 left in the air.
Cape Elizabeth then turned to the air where Hartel completed four of five passes for 69 yards in leading an 11-play, 81-yard march that cut the gap to 14-13 on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Brydson with 1:28 left before intermission.
A 25-yard kickoff return by Matos gave MCI good field position at its 40, and a 36-yard pass from Ryan Friend to Matos advanced the ball to the Cape 6 with less than a minute remaining.
Cape’s defense held, forcing MCI to set up for a 23-yard field-goal try by Varney with 28 seconds left.
Cape coach Aaron Filieo called time-out in an attempt to freeze the senior kicker amid the already chilly conditions, and MCI came out after the break set to try to score a touchdown.
Cape Elizabeth called its third and final time-out of the half, and this time MCI turned to some trickery, sending seven players toward the left sideline.
The Cape line reacted and was whistled for illegal procedure, giving MCI fourth-and-goal from the 3.
MCI ran the same play again, leaving four offensive players against four Cape defenders, and this time Friend hit junior Andrew Whitaker with the touchdown pass with 25 seconds left, and Varney re-emerged to kick the extra point to give the Huskies their halftime advantage.
“I’ve had some little birdies in my ear all season long about running these trick plays,” said coach Bertrand. “Those aren’t mine. That one, coach [Woody] Moore drew that one up this week and I said, ‘You’re out of your mind.’
“We practiced it and I said, ‘Let’s go do it,’ and it worked. The kids made plays.”
Cape’s Sean O’Sullivan partially blocked MCI’s first punt of the game midway through the third quarter to give his team possession at the Huskies’ 46, and the Capers marched deep into MCI territory behind Weare, only to have his 10th consecutive carry come up a half-yard short on fourth-and-1.
One play and an MCI holding penalty later, Matos raced 93 yards on a counterplay to the right and outran Cape’s secondary to the end zone to give the Huskies a 28-13 cushion with 1:29 left in the period.
Hartel drove Cape deep into MCI territory on each of his team’s next two possessions, but the drives stalled the Huskies’ 26- and 16-yard lines, the second time on a fourth-down fumble recovered by MCI’s Isaac Bussell at the 39.
MCI capped off the scoring one play after a 45-yard Will Russell punt to the Cape 1 by forcing Hartel into an illegal grounding penalty from the end zone for a safety with 4:15 left in the game.