BAR HARBOR, Maine — Special teams were definitely special for Morse High of Bath’s football team in Saturday’s Eastern Maine Class B final.
On a day where Mount Desert Island’s defense was stuffing the Shipbuilders’ bruising running game, the No. 5 seed relied on Ryan Chaney’s kickoff return for a touchdown, two intercep-tions (one by Chaney) and a late field goal from Ethan Kingsbury to rally for a 10-7 victory to claim the title.
Morse, 8-2, advances to Saturday’s state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland against West champ Mountain Valley of Rumford while MDI, the No. 2 seed, finished an outstanding season at 8-2.
Coach Jason Libby’s Shipbuilders trailed 7-0 going into halftime, but Chaney took the second-half kickoff at his own 20, headed down the right sideline, made a couple of moves back toward the middle and scampered into the end zone. Kingsbury’s extra point tied the game.
“There isn’t a bigger momentum-changer than a kickoff return for a touchdown,” Libby said.
The teams traded punts before the Trojans embarked on what appeared to be a back-breaking drive that lasted from the end of the third quarter to the four-minute mark of the fourth.
MDI’s running attack of Terrence Jones, Odane Gaynor, Tyler Crawford and Jasper Cous-ins fueled a march from the Trojan 10 to the Morse 11.
However, on first-and-10 from the 11, a holding penalty brought the ball back to the 21 and, three plays later, on the 21st play of the drive, Chaney intercepted MDI quarterback Crawford’s pass in the end zone to preserve the tie.
“Chaney’s good for one of them every game. He’s so tall, so athletic,” said senior tailback Alex Kee, who played a vital role on the Ship-builders’ final drive.
Having been neutralized most of the whole game, Kee picked up 32 yards on first down, breaking four tackles to set up the Shipbuilders in MDI territory.
“Thank you, [offensive] line, I would like to say that,” said Kee, giving his big offensive line credit for clearing some running room.
Kee led Morse with 74 yards on 11 carries.
Morse used its running game to wind the clock down, eventually working to the MDI 11, where Kingsbury booted a high-arching, 28-yard kick through the uprights from the right hash mark to give the Shipbuilders the lead with 22.6 seconds remaining.
“I’m sure they were keying on all of us, but we just came together and our line came together,” Morse senior fullback J Cavanagh said.
Crawford’s final desperation pass was picked off by Jamie Wallace.
MDI’s offense had the Shipbuilders off-balance a bit early, taking the opening series 59 yards in 11 plays, culminating with a fourth-down, 14-yard touchdown pass from Crawford to Nat Hinckley which broke a Morse string of 18 con-secutive scoreless quarters.
Ironically, it was the Trojans’ defense that was stout early, holding Morse without a first down in the first quarter.
MDI penetrated to Morse’s 28 on its next drive and came away empty after Crawford was sacked by Nick Moore and Tyler Pelletier on a third-down play.
“They made a few more plays than we did,” MDI coach Mark Shields said. “It was just one of those games that could’ve gone either way.”
The Shipbuilders’ defensive interior tightened up in the second half, but MDI’s held extremely tough against a bigger Morse front, holding the Shipbuilders to 197 yards of total offense.
“I’ve got to give all the credit I can possibly give to MDI because they just play so tough up front,” said Libby.
Gaynor led the Trojans with 92 yards on 14 rushes.