Sean Stackhouse, Tyson Thompson '26, Lucius Tran '23, Evan Rowell '23, and Scott Martin '26 celebrate after winning the State championship.
In its third year, MCI eSports captures the gold in platform fighter Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
After a fall sports season that was filled with records and achievement, one of the crowing jewels of competition so far this school year came from the most unlikely of places. On Monday, December 19th, MCI's eSports team "The Pack" traveled to Central Maine Community College for the first ever in-person MPA state esports championship, and MCI took home the gold in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Just as students compete in traditional sports like football or soccer, eSports requires participants to put their skills to the test in competitive gaming with different school across the state and country. The game that MCI competed in on Monday was Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a platform fighting game that tasks you with knocking your opponent off the map with a variety of popular video game characters like Mario, Sonic, Pac-Man, and many others.
Playoff action for the eSports programs across the state started on December 6th, finally culminating in the final showdown in Smash between MCI and Cape Elizabeth, the reigning state champions. The Super Smash Bros. team competing for the title consisted of three players: freshman Tyson Thompson, senior Lucius Tran, and senior newcomer Evan Rowell, who usually competes in Rocket League but had to sub in for Super Smash Bros. and learn the game in only a week.
"It was difficult to properly prepare for a live environment since the only one who has played in front of a crowd before was Evan," explained Sean Stackhouse, coach of the MCI eSports team. A majority of the regular season was played online, so the audience and stakes of an in-person event at CMCC were definitely felt in the gymnasium by all parties involved. Every Maine state championship in eSports since its inception in 2020 had been an online event, so this year's competition was especially noteworthy and exciting.
"Being in the state championship felt awesome," said Tyson Thompson. "Meeting people was really fun, and being on stage was a nerve-racking but thrilling experience... Even if we didn’t win, the fact that our team got that far undefeated made it feel great to be there. That being said, we were in it to win."
The ruleset for the State Championship involved three sets, played between the three players on each school's team. Each set consists of 5 games, with the first player to win 3 games winning the set and putting a point on the board. The team to win 2 out of the 3 sets would be crowned the MPA state championships.
Photo courtesy of Daryn Slover/Sun Journal
Going into the match with Cape Elizabeth, the game plan was simple: isolate their best player, then play the numbers game and make sure MCI came on top in the other two sets. With the help of Thompson's elite Pac-Man play, a clean 3-1 victory put the Huskies on top to start the match. Rowell was tasked with going up against Cape's best player, and although he fought valiantly, the set went in Cape Elizabeth's favor with the set count tied 1-1. With that, the title of Maine's best Smash program came down to Tran's final set.
The bleak start to the set would have easily deflated the morale of any player or team. Tran was down 2-0, with Cape Elizabeth only one game away from earning the coveted MPA plaque. To close out the win for the Huskies, Tran would have to win 3 games in a row, a sizeable feat for a player of any skill level, but not an impossible one. Stackhouse and the other eSports players had an idea, and it involved a character switch.
"I had practiced against Lucius a lot, and I knew that there was another character (Little Mac) who was better for him than the one he played in the first game," explained Thompson. Tran switched to the star of the NES's Punch Out! after Game 1, and after getting a feel for the character and his opponent, he started to mount his incredible comeback.
"What really helped Lucius turn the match around was getting a better read on his opponent," said Stackhouse. "I don't think they were ready to see Little Mac... so it just became a case of baiting out some attacks, dodging around them and punishing any openings. Like a true boxer, really."
And just like a boxer grappling on the ropes, Tran was able to use his character switch and adaptation to take the last three games of the set, winning 3-2 and giving MCI their first eSports state championship. For a program that is only in its third year, this is the crowning achievement on all the hard work that the students and coach Stackhouse have put into growing the program and field of competition.
"We've been chasing a title since we started the program in 2020," expressed Stackhouse. "From day one... I wanted this program to be a model for everyone else to follow. Do things the right way, compete with pride and respect, and show everybody what it looks like to have the school and community fully backing a program like this."
With two new teams in League of Legends and Mario Kart arriving in the Spring, the eSports team at MCI is thriving and growing, and for students like Thompson, there is an exciting opportunity to really make a name for yourself in the growing field of competitive gaming.
"I’ve been playing Super Smash Brothers Ultimate for the past four or five years of my life, but I had never thought I’d actually get the chance to compete in it," explained Thompson. "I think this win shows just how important MCI eSports can be, and hopefully it will continue to gain attention here at the school. In the future, I’d love to have new people join the team so I can meet, play, and just interact with them. I’m also really excited for the next season of Super Smash Brothers Ultimate!"