PITTSFIELD — After giving up a bevy of first-half points in its season-opening home loss to Fryeburg Academy, the Medomak Valley football team’s defensive unit came out firing on all cylinders on Friday night, Sept. 10 against host Maine Central Institute.

And a pair of key scores late in the game from Hayden Staples assured those efforts were not lost as Medomak Valley collected one of the most important wins in the program’s history, an 8-7 high school gridiron victory over the talented Huskies.

Panther coach Ryan Snell credited his defense mightily, as he said that group was “on fire all night.”

“It was a great overall team effort,” he said. “Last week we came out on our heels. This week we attacked and moved forward.”

Suffice to say, the Huskies, annually in the mix for the state Class C championship, have had the Panthers’ number in recent years. In the last three games between the programs, MCI had outscored Medomak Valley 153-0.

“Having a lot of new guys, only a couple of our players even remember those games,” said Snell. “So it was a blank slate and a chance to work at trying to flip the script a little bit. The kids are working and getting better learning the game and the situations it brings every day.”

MCI took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter when Adam Paquin scooped a fumble and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown, followed by an extra point by Max Bottonfield.

Then in the fourth quarter, Staples scored on a nine-yard touchdown run — and rushed in the two-point conversion — to give the Panthers the lead and, eventually, the win.

The Huskies rolled down the field on their final possession and had first-and-goal at the five-yard-line, but the Panther defense stood tall and MCI missed the potential game-winning field goal with 25 seconds to play before the Panthers were able to wind down the clock.

Staples ran for 60 yards in the win, while Levi Ward (45 yards rushing, 7-yard catch), Aaron Reed (23 yards rushing), Kory Donlin (8 yards rushing) and Tucker Holgerson (13-yard catch) also keyed the Panther offense.

Nolan Gahagan (9 solo tackles, forced fumble), Gatlin Bedenik (5 solos, 2 assisted tackles), Staples (4 solos), Isaac Simmons (3 solos), Marshall Addy (2 solos, 2 quarterback sacks, fumble recovery), Jethro Pease (sack) and Isaac Bickford (sack) kept the MCI offense off the scoreboard and keyed the Medomak Valley defense.

MaineStay Media/VillageSoup sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com.