Bucksport’s Jaxon Gross carries the ball as Tyler Hallett blocks during the first half of a high school football game against John Bapst on Sept. 24 at Bucksport High School. The Golden Bucks closed out a frustrating opening month of the season on a high note with a 43-13 victory over the Crusaders. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Bucksport football batters Bapst to earn long-awaited win

BUCKSPORT — After enjoying this feeling nearly every fall Friday night two years ago, Jaxon Gross has been missing it.

Between a 2020 season that never took place, a Week 1 loss and a Week 2 cancellation that came a matter of hours before they were slated to take the field, the feeling of frustration has been a constant one for the Bucksport football team. The sensation that followed a blowout victory, then, was an even better one for the team’s junior running back.

“Haven’t done that in two years!” Gross yelled as he made his way from the handshake line to Bucksport’s postgame huddle. It was a yell of excitement, sure, but also one of relief for a player and a team that entered the evening desperate to unleash pent-up angst.

For a program that’s used to taking the field and winning football games, doing neither has certainly taken its toll. Yet with the waits for a victory and the return of football to Carmichael Field both ending, all felt right in the world once again for the Golden Bucks and the purple-and-gold faithful.

Bucksport claimed its first win of the season with a 43-13 triumph over John Bapst in Friday’s contest at Bucksport High School. The Golden Bucks dominated the first half to put the visiting Crusaders away early en route to a Senior Night victory.

“This meant a lot to our kids,” Bucksport head coach Joel Sankey said. “Every day has been a challenge. We didn’t have a season last year, and then we come back and have to deal with injuries, cancellations and kids who’ve been quarantined. Just to be able to be out here and see them execute and enjoy themselves was worth it.”

Bucksport’s Ayden Maguire drops back to pass during the first half of a high school football game against John Bapst on Sept. 24 at Bucksport High School. Bucksport scored on five of its six first-half possessions to take a 36-0 lead into halftime. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY MIKE MANDELL

Bucksport (1-1) marched down the field on the opening possession and took a 6-0 lead on a 2-yard run from Ayden Maguire with 9 minutes, 2 seconds left in the first quarter. The Bucks would add touchdown runs from Ty Giberson and Josh Miller and a pair of 2-point passes from Maguire to Tyler Hallett to lead 22-0 through one quarter of play.

After a shanked punt by John Bapst (0-3) early in the second quarter gave Bucksport great field position, the Golden Bucks capitalized on a 2-yard run from Miller with 6:04 to play in the half. Giberson added a 6-yard touchdown just before halftime and scored again with a minute to go in the third quarter before Bucksport’s junior varsity players closed out the fourth.

Bucksport had originally been slated to play its first home game of the season Sept. 10 against Poland before a close-contact situation canceled that game just hours before its scheduled kickoff. That was a bitter pill to swallow for the Golden Bucks, who had been itching to bounce back from a tough loss to Winthrop/Monmouth in their season opener. 

“[We handled that] terribly,” Sankey admitted. “We all did. It’s just so frustrating, this whole thing. The Winthrop game, that was a good game before we took the gun out and shot ourselves in the foot about 50 times. The kids were ready to get back and play hard after that, but then, suddenly, we’re not playing. It’s tough.”

Friday’s game was Senior Night for Bucksport’s Giberson, Hallett, Miller, Jacob Coghill, Donald Eldridge and Aziz Younes. Although Senior Night festivities are usually held in the season’s final home game, the COVID-19 era has turned future games into anything but a guarantee.

Bucksport’s five healthy seniors (Younes, one of the team’s top tacklers, was injured) all made significant contributions in the win. Those players did so in front of an impressive crowd at Carmichael Field, which was packed with fans of the home team, the visitors and even some of the Golden Bucks’ Class D and former Little Ten Conference foes.

“The student section had 50 people, and we had like five or six different teams here to come watch us,” Giberson said. “It was great to be playing in front of our entire families and all of our friends again. We haven’t been here in two years, and we wanted to show this Bucksport town we’re back.”

Following the Week 2 cancellation, Bucksport was off for another week as it had its scheduled bye last Friday. Although Sankey has been less than fond of bye weeks in the past, he had a much different tune this time as injuries and the team’s COVID-19 situation stretched the Golden Bucks’ roster rather thin.

Bucksport’s Tyler Hallett hauls in an interception during the first half of a high school football game against John Bapst on Sept. 24 at Bucksport High School. The Golden Bucks will face Oak Hill at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday, Oct. 2, in Wales. RICK MCHALE PHOTO

“This bye was a godsend,” Sankey said. “There were two days at practice that week where we had 18 kids. If we would have had a game, I mean, what do you do? So we needed that because, this week, we were able to come back and have a full, tough week of practice. That definitely showed.”

Bucksport’s next game will be on the road against Oak Hill (1-1, will host Madison at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow, Sept. 25) at 1:30 next Saturday, Oct. 2. Bucksport and Oak Hill last met two years ago in a thrilling game that saw the Golden Bucks come back from a 14-0 deficit with eight minutes to go to claim a 21-14 win.

Oak Hill, Giberson, Gross and Sankey all acknowledged, has a few remaining players from that 2019 meeting who are sure to remember the feeling of letting a two-score lead late in the game slip away. Yet after Bucksport’s trials and tribulations over the past few weeks (and year), the Golden Bucks won’t be any less motivated.

“It’s been hard, but it fuels us,” Gross said. “We’re not going to be satisfied with this. It’s just Week 4, and there’s a long way to go. We have to keep getting better.”

Eagles battle more scheduling issues; Trojans fall to Stearns/Schenck

Week 4 was not so kind to Hancock County’s other football teams with Ellsworth/Sumner battling more scheduling issues and Mount Desert Island falling to a road defeat.

Ellsworth/Sumner (0-1) had been scheduled to travel to Dexter tomorrow, Sept. 25, in a newly scheduled game for two teams that were set to be idle for Week 4. Yet those plans fell by the wayside Tuesday as COVID-19 issues at Dexter Regional High School forced the Tigers to cancel the game.

The cancellation marks the third straight week that Ellsworth/Sumner has been unable to play a football game. The Eagles had their Week 2 home game against Camden Hills and Week 3 road game against Waterville canceled after numerous players were forced to enter quarantine.

In Millinocket, MDI fell to 1-2 with a 46-22 loss to Stearns/Schenck. The defeat was the second of the year to Stearns/Schenck (2-2) for the Trojans, who previously fell to the Minutemen 48-42 in a back-and-forth Week 1 game in Bar Harbor.

Ellsworth/Sumner and MDI will return to action next Saturday. The Eagles will play on the road against Morse (3-1) at 3:30 p.m., and the Trojans will host Camden Hills (2-1, will host Waterville at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27) at 7.

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell

Mike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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