BAR HARBOR — It has been ages since the Mount Desert Island Trojans won a playoff football game, so it was only fitting that Friday’s historic PTC Class B quarterfinal against Waterville was a game for the ages.
A scintillating game featuring at least 30 game-changing plays and numerous heroes that changed by the minute came down to simple biology: Terrence Jones’ two hands, Odane Gaynor’s foot, and Nolan Hall’s two hands gave No. 2 MDI a 28-27 win over the No. 7 Purple Panthers.
Hall used his hands to catch a 4-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Crawford with 30 seconds left to play. Gaynor kicked the resulting PAT to put the Trojans up 28-21, and Jones used both hands to slap down the potential game-winning two-point conversion pass by Waterville’s Kyle Bishop with no time left on the clock.
How appropriate that the game provided plenty of thrills, chills and scares on Halloween.
“It was absolutely petrifying,” said Jones, who led the Trojans with 108 yards and one TD on just eight carries. “I mean, this was the best game I’ve played in, but it was scary.
Jones put MDI up 6-0 midway through the first quarter via a 61-yard TD run in which he gained seven yards, used a spin move to get around the only tackler who had a shot at him, and then sprinted the rest of the way untouched.
“Basically, I expected contact and was still up, so I just kept running,” he said.
Waterville answered with a 10-play, 66-yard drive in the second quarter capped by a 19-yard TD pass from Bishop to J.D. Gurski with 2:13 left. That’s when things really got going. Waterville kicked the extra point to lead by one, and intercepted Crawford at the MDI-42, but gave the ball right back. Nate Ward tackled Bishop for a loss and jarred the ball loose. Jasper Cousins picked the loose ball up on the bounce at the MDI-43 and raced down the left sideline for a 57-yard score.
“Nate and Uriah [Hallett] got in on that and it just bounced up to me. I was just hoping I didn’t fumble it because I almost did,” Cousins said.
Jones then ran for a two-point conversion with four seconds left in the half.
A fired-up Panthers squad took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 33 yards in five plays after Brian Guerette set things up with a 47-yard kickoff return. Huggins (22 carries for 129 yards) capped things with a 9-yard TD run and the kick was good.
MDI retook the lead with 10:11 left in the game on a 13-play, 59-yard drive that ended with Gaynor’s 8-yard TD run and the PAT kick, but the Panthers again responded., this time by going 82 yards in just seven plays (a 43-yard pass from Bishop to Peter Cote was the key play) and capping things with a Guerette 3-yard TD rush. The extra point tied it with 7:33 left.
The Trojans weren’t done. They saved their best for last, using 16 plays and seven minutes to march 65 yards and go up 28-21 on Hall’s catch and the PAT.
Ah, but neither were the Panthers, who returned the kickoff 12 yards to their own 42 before letting Bishop go to work. The gritty sophomore completed an 18-yard pass on first down and followed that with a 25-yard pass to Josh Gaudette, who also got out of bounds after the completion with nine seconds left. After two incompletions, the second a near-TD pass that bounced off Gaudette’s hands in the end zone with a tenth of a second remaining, Bishop found Gaudette again in the left corner, this time sandwiched between two defensive backs, but Gaudette outreached them for the ball and the TD.
With no time left, Waterville coach Frank Knight elected to go for two and the win.
Bishop backpedaled and threw across the right side into the right corner, but before it could find its intended target, Jones acted.
“I read it. I saw the quarterback eyeing the receiver, and I just went for it. I just got two hands on it and knocked it down,” he said.
Knight wasn’t second-guessing himself after the game.
“The rule is on the road, you go for two,” he explained. “We thought about just kicking it, but they were running their offense so well, in overtime, we didn’t like our chances of stopping them. I’d still do the same thing.”
Trojans coach Mark Shields was almost speechless after the game.
“They ran a little 5-4 [defense], but that 4-4 with a six-man front really stopped what we wanted to do offensively. They schemed us well,” he said. “They played their hearts out tonight. Both teams did.”