Maine Central Institute senior Adam Bertrand runs past Cape Elizabeth’s Jake Budischewsky (33) and Jacob Brydson during Friday night’s Class C state final. The Huskies avenged a loss from earlier this season and upset the Capers, who are still seeking their first state championship, 30-13.
Michael G. Seamans / Kennebec Journal photo.
More photos below.
CE- 7 6 0 0- 13
MCI- 14 7 7 2- 30
MCI- Bertrand 52 run (Varney kick)
CE- Brydson 16 pass from Hartel (Morin kick)
MCI- Bertrand 1 run (Varney kick)
CE- Conley 10 pass from Hartel (pass failed)
MCI- Whitaker 3 pass from Friend (Varney kick)
MCI- Matos 93 run (Varney kick)
MCI- Safety, Cape Elizabeth intentional grounding in end zone
ORONO—The stage was set, the trophy sat waiting and in the opinion of most, Cape Elizabeth’s football team was about to capture its long-awaited first state championship when it made the trip north to the University of Maine’s Harold Alfond Sports Stadium Friday evening.
But no one shared that script with the Maine Central Institute Huskies, the reigning Class D champions, who moved up in class this fall and after struggling through the regular season, saved their absolute best for last.
Eight weeks after MCI lost, 35-13, at Cape Elizabeth in week four, the Huskies took it to the Capers for 48 minutes and made a powerful statement in becoming the first program in nearly three decades to win a state title in one class, then a year later, move up and capture a Gold Ball in another (Marshwood in 1988-89).
MCI struck quickly and made an immediate statement, as senior captain Adam Bertrand capped a 78-yard march with a 52-yard scoring burst for a 7-0 lead less than two minutes in.
Back came the Capers, driving 63 yards to pull even on a 16-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Andrew Hartel to senior Jacob Brydson, but later in the first period, Bertrand scored on a 1-yard dive for a 14-7 lead after 12 minutes.
After recovering a fumble in their territory, Cape Elizabeth got right back in the game with 5:09 left before halftime, when Hartel hit junior Matt Conley for a 10-yard score. The two-point conversion pass was no good, but the Capers were only down a point.
But they wouldn’t score again and the Huskies drove for a critical score with just 25 seconds left in the half, as on fourth down, they went to an unconventional formation and freshman quarterback Ryan Friend hit junior Andrew Whitaker for a 3-yard score and a 21-13 halftime lead.
After Cape Elizabeth failed to take advantage of a short field on a couple of occasions in the third period, MCI senior Pedro Matos made them pay, breaking free for a breathtaking 93-yard touchdown run which made the score 28-13 heading for the fourth period.
There, the Capers’ futility and frustration continued, as they got close to the Huskies’ goal line, but couldn’t cross it and after a highlight-reel MCI punt pinned Cape Elizabeth at its 1, the Capers took a safety and that was more than enough for the Huskies to slam the door and go on to a 30-13 victory.
MCI closed the year on a four-game win streak, surged from the No. 6 seed in Class C North to the championship with an 8-4 record, captured its fourth title all-time and in the process, ended Cape Elizabeth’s memorable and successful campaign at 9-3.
“It is devastating,” said longtime Capers coach Aaron Filieo. “Everyone thought that the stars were aligned, but you never know. (Us being favored) really bothered me because I knew how good (MCI was). Any team that gets here as a number six seed, you hope the magic runs out, but they played at a high level. They had a great game plan.”
Cape Elizabeth had a great opportunity to win its first Gold Ball a year ago, capping the regular season with a victory at Wells to finish undefeated and earn the top seed in Class C South, but in the rematch versus the Warriors in the regional final, the host Capers lost, 27-14, and Wells went on to win the championship.
This fall, Cape Elizabeth had a lot of top players to replace, but despite close losses at Leavitt and Wells, only got better as the season progressed, winning six times by an average of 36-7. As the No. 2 seed in Class C South, the Capers had no trouble with No. 7 Lake Region in the quarterfinals, 50-7, then held off third-ranked Fryeburg Academy, 14-0, in the semifinals (giving Filieo his 100th victory with the program) before ousting No. 4 Gardiner in last week’s regional final, 35-13.
That sent Cape Elizabeth to just its second-ever state final and its first in Class C. Eight years ago, the Capers lost, 35-21, to Leavitt in the Class B state game.
MCI, meanwhile, has quite a pedigree, sharing the Class D title with Boothbay in 1973, winning the class the following year and downing Lisbon at the horn in last year’s thrilling Class D Final (20-14). The Huskies also lost to Oak Hill in the 2014 (41-21) and 2015 (34-21) Class D state games and fell to Winthrop in the 2000 Class C state final (22-0).
MCI moved up to Class C this season and split eight regular season games to wind up sixth for the playoffs. The Huskies then caught fire, upsetting third-ranked Nokomis (33-24) in the quarterfinals, outlasting second-seeded Winslow in a thrilling semifinal (43-42), then knocking off top-ranked Mt. Desert Island (27-6) in the regional final last weekend.
On Sept. 22, the Capers hosted the Huskies and prevailed, 35-15.
Friday, on a chilly (29-degrees) and windy (14 miles-per-hour, making the air feel 18-degrees), but dry evening, Cape Elizabeth looked to cement its legacy and finally hoist that long-awaited championship trophy to the heavens, but instead, MCI would steal the show.
The Capers won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half.
MCI got the ball to start the game at its 22 and struck first. The Huskies first moved the chains, as Friend hit Bertrand for four yards, junior Seth Bussell ran for five and Bertrand broke free for 17 more to the 48. After Friend threw incomplete, Bertrand got the ball again and found room up the gut, made a move to his right to elude one defender, then outran the pursuit to the end zone to complete a 52-yard scoring run.
“We had to jump on them,” Bertrand said. “We had to start big, play big and continue, not stopping.”
With 10:18 to go in the first period, senior Devon Varney added the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
Cape Elizabeth then got its first possession at its 37 and moved the chains as well, as junior Jack Tower gained 11 yards on the first play. After Tower gained two more to midfield, senior workhorse Ryan Weare picked up a first down with an eight-yard burst on his first carry. After the Capers were backed up five yards for illegal procedure, Weare rumbled for 18 more and a first down at the Huskies’ 29. Hartel then threw incomplete, Weare ran for five yards and two yards and on fourth-and-3, Jake Budischewsky gained just enough for another first down. Weare ran for three more yards, then Hartel dropped back and spotted a wide-open Brydson, who leaked out of the backfield uncovered, and Brydson made the catch and raced into the end zone for the 16-yard touchdown. With 5:55 to play in the opening stanza, sophomore Alexander Morin added the extra point to tie the score, 7-7.
The drive chewed up 4:17, took 10 plays and traversed 63 yards.
The Capers’ defense then came up with a potential momentum-turning play, as after Bertrand was held to no yardage, Matos gained 10 yards, but he was stripped of the ball at the end of the run and senior captain Luc Houle recovered for Cape Elizabeth at the MCI 42.
The Capers couldn’t capitalize, however, as they went three-and-out and had to punt. After Weare was thrown for a one-yard loss by sophomore Harrison Sites, Weare got the yard back, but on third down, Hartel threw incomplete.
After a touchback, the Huskies got the ball back at their 20 with 3:38 left in the quarter and used all but 12 seconds of the remaining time to march 80 yards in eight plays for the go-ahead score.
MCI started by giving the ball to Bussell and he rumbled for 14 yards. After Bertrand gained four yards, he burst through a huge hole on the right side and wasn’t tackled until he reached the Cape Elizabeth 26 after a gain of 36. Bussell ran for nine yards and Bertrand picked up a dozen more for a first-and-goal at the 5. After Bertrand ran the ball to the 1, he was held to no gain by Conley, but on third-and-goal, Bertrand got the call again and wedged his way into the end zone for the 1-yard TD with 12 seconds left in the period. Varney added the PAT for a 14-7 lead.
Cape Elizabeth threatened on its next series, but ultimately had to punt again.
On the final play of a first period which saw the Capers outgained, 168 yards to 61, Weare was thrown for a two-yard loss by Bussell. On the first snap of the second quarter, Hartel hit Brydson for 26 yards, with Brydson making a couple nice moves after the catch, for a first down at the Huskies’ 46, but Tower was thrown for a one-yard loss by MCI sophomore Isaac Bussell and Hartel twice threw incomplete, setting up fourth down.
After another punt, the Huskies got the ball back at their 26 and began to drive again, but ultimately would shoot themselves in the foot.
After Bertrand was held to no gain, he made a nice cutback move for an 11-yard gain and a first down at the 37. After Friend threw incomplete, Matos broke free on the left side for 11 yards, with only a timely tackle from sophomore Matthew Laughlin saving the touchdown. Seth Bussell ran for two yards to midfield, but after Cape Elizabeth junior Bear Huffard tackled Bertrand for no gain, Bertrand caught a pass for seven yards and on fourth-and-1, Bussell picked up the yard to move the chains. After Matos ran for nine yards, Bertrand gained four for a first down at the Capers’ 29, but after a seven-yard burst by Bussell, Bertrand fumbled and Weare recovered for Cape Elizabeth at its 19.
The Capers then got their offense going again and used up 5:09 to march 81 yards in 11 plays to regain momentum.
Weare started the march by rushing for two-yards, then he picked up four and on third-and-4, Tower gained six. After Weare was held to a yard and Cape Elizabeth had a false start penalty, Hartel threw a strike to a sprawling Brydson on the right sideline for 24 yards and a first down at the MCI 49. Hartel then threw incomplete, Tower had a four-yard run and on third-and-6, Hartel hit Weare out of the backfield for 16 yards and a first down at the 29. After junior Zach Stewart gained one yard, Hartel and Brydson hooked up again for 18 yards and a first-and-goal at the 10. On the next snap, Hartel passed again, this time to Conley, and Conley hauled the ball in just over the goal line for a 10-yard score with 1:28 left in the half. The Capers went for two points, but the conversion pass was incomplete, leaving MCI on top, 14-13.
The Huskies then answered before the half, capping a nine-play, 60-yard, 54-second drive with a trick play.
MCI started at its 40 after a nice kickoff return from Matos. After Friend hit senior David Young for nine yards and ran for five more, he threw incomplete, hit Young for four, then lofted a gorgeous 36-yard completion to Matos, who was rocked after catching the ball, but he held on, setting up first-and-goal at the 6. Bertrand was held to no gain and Friend twice threw incomplete, forcing Varney to come on to try a 23-yard field goal, but instead, after a timeout, the Huskies sent the offense back out and ran an unusual formation, as most of the team lined up to the left, with only Friend and three others staying with the ball. After Cape Elizabeth jumped offsides, MCI stayed in the same “swinging gate” formation, Friend got the snap and rolled right and hit a wide open Whitaker in the end zone for the TD with 25 seconds left.
“We set up for that in a previous week, so I thought the guys adjusted well,” Filieo said. “We had guys in the right spot, but we had two guys covering the same guy and the other guy got loose. I thought we’d come out of that in a good situation, but we didn’t cover that guy.”
Varney added the PAT to make it 21-13.
The Capers got one final chance from their 40 with 19 seconds remaining, but after a five-yard penalty, Hartel took a knee and the game went to the half with the Huskies surprisingly on top by eight.
In the first half, MCI enjoyed a 283-161 edge in yardage and while it did commit two turnovers, it wasn’t penalized. The Huskies got 141 yards and two scores on 15 carries from Bertrand and 63 yards passing from Friend, who completed 6-of-11 attempts with a touchdown.
Cape Elizabeth was flagged four times for 18 yards and was most effective through the air, as Hartel completed 6-of-12 passes for 110 yards and two scores. Brydson had four catches for 84 yards. Weare was held to 41 yards on 11 rushes.
The Capers got the ball to start the second half and began at the MCI 49 after a nice kickoff return by Tower, but they went three-and-out, as Hartel sandwiched incomplete passes around a three-yard Weare run. Houle then pinned the Huskies at their 7 with a nice punt.
MCI’s first possession of the second half began with a one-yard run by Matos and a 20-yard burst by Bertrand for a first down, but after Matos picked up five more, a bad exchange led to a five-yard loss by Bertrand and Matos only gained five yards back, forcing a punt. The Huskies’ first punt of the game then resulted in a partial block by Cape Elizabeth junior Sean O’Sullivan, which gave the Capers prime field position again at the MCI 46.
The next drive would be all Weare, all the time, but it didn’t culminate in a touchdown.
The Capers got a four-yard run from Weare on first down, but on the next snap, Weare was thrown for a two-yard loss by MCI junior T.J. Kuespert. On third-and-8, Weare ran for nine yards and the drive continued. After Weare was held to no gain, he picked up seven and on third-and-3 from the 28, Weare rumbled for five more and a first down. Weare got the ball again for three yards, then ran left for four and on third-and-3 from the 16, he gained two. That set up a fateful fourth-and-1 and this time, Weare, on his 10th straight carry, was stopped cold, giving the ball back to the Huskies on downs.
“We couldn’t finish the long drive,” Filieo lamented. “That was a good drive running the ball, but we couldn’t get to the point of attack on that fourth-and-1 wedge.”
Starting from its 14, MCI got a two-yard run from Matos, but the Huskies then took their first penalty, holding, setting up second-and-17 from the 7.
That set the stage for Matos to steal the show and extend the lead.
Matos took a pitch to the right, broke through a hole, then turned on the jets, outrunning the pursuit for a staggering 93-yard score.
“We made some defensive adjustments, then Matos broke one,” Filieo said. “We had bad angles on defense. We’re fast, but our speed hurt us tonight overpursuing. That was a backbreaker.”
Varney’s PAT extended the lead to 28-13 with 1:29 to play in the frame.
As the third quarter gave way to the fourth, Cape Elizabeth would again threaten, but again come up empty.
Tower returned the ensuing kickoff 18 yards to the 48 and after Hartel sandwiched a pair of incomplete passes around a five-yard Weare run, Hartel, under pressure, managed to find Brydson for nine-yards and a first down at the MCI 38. After Hartel threw incomplete, Weare ran for four yards on the final play of the third period (the Huskies enjoyed a 112-53 advantage in yardage) and on the first play of the final stanza, Hartel hit Brydson again for eight yards and a first down at the 26. That’s as close as the Capers would get, however, as four straight incomplete passes and an illegal touching penalty gave MCI the ball back at its 31 with 11:19 to play.
Cape Elizabeth’s defense would rise up, forcing a three-and-out, as Weare threw Matos for a one-yard loss and after Friend tossed to Bertrand for five yards, Matos was held to four on third-and-six, necessitating a punt.
With 9:17 to play, the Capers started at their 34 and Hartel threw a jump ball that Brydson managed to wrestle from Young for 34 yards and a first down at the Huskies’ 32. After an incomplete pass, Hartel hit senior Sulayman Shir for eight yards and Conley for eight more to the 16, but after three straight incompletions, on fourth-and-10, a bad snap sailed well over Hartel’s head and the loose ball was pounced on by Isaac Bussell at the MCI 39 with 7:39 remaining.
This time, the Huskies managed to move the chains, as after Bertrand was held to no gain, Seth Bussell ran for 16 yards to the Cape Elizabeth 45. After Bertrand gained a yard, Matos was tackled for a one-yard loss by Tower and Friend was sacked by Glanville and senior Sam Chipman, forcing a punt.
That punt would be a thing of beauty, as sophomore Will Russell booted the ball from midfield, it dropped inside the 15 and bounced and rolled to the shadow of the goal line before it was downed inside the Capers’ 1.
The MCI defense picked up where the special teams left off, pressuring Hartel on the next snap and Hartel threw the ball away with no receiver in the vicinity. Since the pass came from the end zone, the intentional grounding penalty resulted in a two-point safety and the Huskies suddenly had a three-score lead, 30-13.
Cape Elizabeth would never see the ball again.
After a free kick went out of bounds, MCI started at the Capers’ 47 with 4:09 to go. Bertrand ran for two yards, Bussell picked up four and on third down, Matos gained seven to move the chains. After Bertrand was held to no gain by Cape Elizabeth junior Louis Daukas, Bertrand gained two yards. Filieo then took his final timeout before Matos broke free for an apparent 32-yard score. The touchdown was called back by a holding penalty, but a personal foul on the Capers gave the Huskies a first down at the 15. Three more runs milked the clock and at 9:38 p.m., MCI celebrated its 30-13 victory.
“This means the world,” Bertrand said. “We started to believe we could do it, big-time.”
“We had nothing to lose,” said Huskies coach Tom Bertrand. “We were not favored. We had some scores to settle. We got healthy, we got better, we started to peak. Our kids came together and we just buckled down. I’m just ecstatic the kids get some glory.”
The Huskies finished with 448 total yards and overcame their two turnovers and two penalties for 39 yards.
Matos led the way with 164 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. He also caught a pass for 36 yards.
Bertrand excelled as well, rushing for 162 yards and a pair of scores on 23 attempts. He also had three receptions for 16 yards.
Friend finished 7-of-12 through the air, good for 68 yards and a TD.
Seth Bussell had 58 yards on eight rushes.
Young caught two balls for 13 yards and Whitaker had the one huge touchdown catch for 3 yards.
Cape Elizabeth finished with 248 yards, but was penalized seven times for 39 yards and turned the ball over once.
Hartel threw the ball 32 times and completed 11 passes, good for 177 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Brydson was his main target, catching seven passes for 135 yards and a score.
Conley had two receptions for 18 yards and a TD.
Shir caught one pass for 8 yards.
On the ground, Weare was somewhat held in check, but still ran 24 times for 85 yards. He also caught a pass for 16 yards.
Tower ran five times for 22 yards.
Budischewsky had one carry, good for 3 yards.
“I think our hearts and effort were in the right place, but our execution was a little off,” Houle said. “Their line was stronger this time, but I think we could have won if we’d done things the right way.
“We love adversity and we’re always ready for it, but sometimes you just can’t come back. We’re never a team that gives us. We played as hard as we possibly could until the last play. We kept going. That was all we could do.”
“They didn’t do anything that we didn’t expect,” Filieo said. “We just couldn’t stop their counter and their power. We didn’t tackle especially well tonight, which is uncharacteristic for us. We were new to them last time. The second time around, they had seen film on us and they were able to have a better game plan. They really kicked our (rear ends). We didn’t play a lot of physical teams this year other than Wells. That schedule didn’t prepare us well for tonight.”
Despite the pain of the loss, the Capers had reason to hold their heads high.
“It stings right now, but I’m so proud of the entire team,” Houle said. “I’d rather lose with these guys than win with anyone else.”
“No one expected us to be here after graduating 18 seniors,” Filieo said. “I’m proud of these guys for having a great season.”
Cape Elizabeth will lose some key players to graduation again, but next fall, the Capers will be well equipped to make another run at the elusive Gold Ball.
Perhaps the 2018 squad will finish the job.
“We have quite a few guys back,” Filieo said. “We’ll be starting from a stronger place next year.”
Kennebec Journal staff writer Travis Barrett and Press Herald staff writer Mike Lowe contributed to this story.
Cape Elizabeth’s football team races on to the field at the University of Maine prior to the start of Friday’s contest.
Cape Elizabeth senior Ryan Weare barrels through a hole.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Press Herald photo.
Cape Elizabeth junior quarterback Andrew Hartel throws a pass.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Press Herald photo.
MCI senior captain David Young (10) and senior P.J. Plummer raise the Gold Ball following the victory. The Huskies won the Class D state title a year ago and after moving up in class, earned more hardware behind an impressive performance.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Press Herald photo.
Cape Elizabeth coach Aaron Filieo consoles senior capains Jack Glanville (33) and Luc Houle after the Capers receive the state runner-up plaque.
2009 Class B
Leavitt 35 Cape Elizabeth 21
2016 Class D
MCI 20 Lisbon 14
2015 Class D
Oak Hill 34 MCI 21
2014 Class D
Oak Hill 41 MCI 21
2000 Class C
Winthrop 22 MCI 0