MDI's Jacob Shields carries the ball under pressure from Greely's Brayden Van Pembrook during the 8-man large school Maine state championship game at Cameron Stadium in Bangor on Saturday. Credit: Kim Higgins / BDN

The Trojans brought their school’s first gold football back to Mount Desert Island last weekend after shutting out the Greely Rangers 28-0 in the 8-man Large state championship game at Cameron Stadium in Bangor.

The Trojans, who came up short in 2016, 2017 and 2022, finally broke through this fall with a mixture of hard-nosed running, trickery in the pass game and solid team defense — all of which were on display in their unexpected playoff run.

“We thought last year was our year,” longtime MDI head coach Mark Shields said. “There were a lot of question marks heading into this season. But things just came together – we seemed to gel more and more as the season went along.”

After being upset as the No. 1 seed by No. 3 Waterville in 2022’s regional final, the Trojans returned to the playoffs this year with something to prove, dominating No. 2 Morse 32-3, No. 1 Camden Hills 26-6 and finally No. 2 Greely 28-0. They finished the season with a 10-1 record.

On defense, MDI’s secondary of senior Spencer Laurendeau, senior Jacob Shields and junior Cal Hodgdon combined for seven interceptions in the playoffs (six in the regular season), while MDI’s defensive front led by junior James Downey (eight tackles for losses, five sacks in regular season) kept things locked down at the line of scrimmage.

“The kids were totally bought into the defensive schemes,” Shields said. “They saw the success on the scoreboard and trusted their teammates to do their jobs.”

MDI students cheer on their football team during the 8-man large school Maine state championship game against Greely at Cameron Stadium in Bangor on Saturday. Credit: Kim Higgins / BDN

On the other side of the ball, offensive coordinator Mark Arnold ran a spread offense featuring lots of motion, with quarterback Spencer Laurendeau as the primary ball carrier.

A true workhorse, Laurendeau ran for a combined 310 yards and five touchdowns on 68 carries against Camden Hills and Greely in the playoffs. In the regular season, Laurendeau averaged 8.1 yards per carry and more than two rushing touchdowns per game.

Behind the blocking of center Downey, junior tackle Mason Rose, junior tight end Cal Hodgdon and All-Conference sophomore tackle Joey Bennett, Laurendeau and company ran for exactly 2,400 yards on the year.

“Spencer can do it all,” Shields said. “He’s quick, hard to stop and can also throw a decent ball.”

It was in the air that the Trojans were especially tricky, with Arnold and company mixing in flea flickers and reverses involving backup QB Jacob Shields as a decoy in his usual running back position. Shields had just three touchdown passes on the year, but they all took MDI’s opponents by surprise, including a crushing blow to Greely in the second quarter of the state championship game.

Capping a 79-yard drive for the Trojans, Shields rolled out to the right and launched a flea flicker 29 yards to the end zone, where a wide open junior Jarron Biekert was waiting to make it a two score game. Laurendeau tacked on a 38-yard touchdown bomb to his favorite target Hodgdon to seal it in the third.

“We just have athletes, man,” senior quarterback Spencer Laurendeau said postgame. “Everyone of us contributes. It doesn’t matter whose hands the ball is in.”

The Trojans will lose Laurendeau and Shields to graduation this offseason, but will retain their talented offensive line and receiving corps. Moreover, Shields says the elementary and middle school feeder teams on the Island are totally full.

“People are excited about football on the Island,” Shields said. “Kids see the parades and say, ‘I wouldn’t mind being a part of that.’”

Sam Canfield is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, and the Bangor Daily News' newest sports reporter. He loves to examine the narratives and motivations behind Maine's most exciting athletes...