BAR HARBOR, Maine — The way things started Friday night for the Mount Desert Island football team didn’t look too promising.
Winslow’s Nate St. Amand, who led Northern Maine Class C in rushing, exploded for a long touchdown run on the game’s first series, and the two-time defending state champs appeared to be well in control.
But ball control is a specialty of coach Mark Shields’ Trojans, and they used that dynamic and their stingy defense to make school history.
“Before the game we were just saying after every play, keep each other up,” said MDI senior tailback Chris Farnsworth.
MDI didn’t allow Winslow to reach the end zone for the rest of the game, and the Trojans earned their first regional football championship with a thrilling 12-7 victory over the Black Raiders.
Top-seeded MDI (9-1) takes on the winner of Saturday’s South final between Wells and Cape Elizabeth on Nov. 19 at at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
Third-seeded Winslow finishes at 9-2.
“Our defense has been getting it done pretty much the second half of the season,” Shields said. “You don’t think you’re going to score 12 points against Winslow and win, but it just shows how strong our defense was.”
The Trojans’ defense held Winslow to three first downs in the second half while using their T-formation, ground-oriented offense to maintain control and keep the ball away from a Raider offense that had scored 55 and 41 points in their first two playoff games.
It was an 18-play, 81-yard drive covering the third and fourth quarters that gave MDI the lead for good, with Farnsworth scoring from two yards out with 9:22 left in regulation.
Winslow had led 7-6 at intermission.
MDI featured great balance in its rushing attack, with Colby Lee compiling 67 yards on 17 carries, Lee 62 yards on 12 rushes and Graham Good 59 yards on 19 carries. The Trojans also did not turn the ball over.
MDI gave up the ball four times in the regular-season meeting between the teams, won 40-20 by the Black Raiders.
After MDI took its first lead, Winslow finally got its offense back into gear, moving to the Trojans’ 21. However, James Carroll shut the door on that threat with an interception in the end zone.
“Our defense has been amazing all year,” Farnsworth said.
It didn’t take long for the Black Raiders to strike, with St. Amand ripping a 46-yard touchdown down the left sideline less than three minutes into the contest.
Ryan Gagnon’s PAT kick made it 7-0, and that’s when Shields got a bit apprehensive. But his players stayed the course.
“The kids, they just stepped it up and we started making plays,” Shields said.
The Raiders threatened again on their subsequent possession after an MDI three-and-out, but the Trojans’ defense buckled down inside the 5. Gagnon missed a 20-yard field-goal try with just over a minute to go in the period.
It was that sequence that allowed MDI to generate some momentum, as the Trojans were able to use their ground attack to keep Winslow’s offense off the field.
MDI drove to Winslow’s 29 and ate up nearly half the second quarter before turning the ball over on downs, but the Trojans’ defense again stood tall, forcing a three-and-out.
The Trojans then embarked on a 10-play, 65-yard drive that chewed up the final 4:03 of the first half. A halfback option pass from Farnsworth to Andrew Phelps on third-and-10 set up MDI at the Winslow 4.
On the next play, Graham Good scooted in from four yards out on a run over the right side, stretching the ball over the plane of the goal line just before fumbling.
A bad snap on the extra-point kick allowed Winslow to keep its lead (7-6) at the break.
Farnsworth was at a loss for words after he and his teammates made history.
“It’s unreal. That’s all I can say,” Farnsworth said.
St. Amand finished with 101 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown for Winslow, which was held to eight first downs in the contest.