BUCKSPORT — All Sean Geagan could do was shake his head.
With the Bucksport football team trailing Winslow 25-6 with just over 10 minutes to go in the third quarter of its first and only preseason game, Geagan, an assistant coach for the team, saw what everybody else could: The Golden Bucks only had nine players on the field.
Geagan and the other Bucksport coaches yelled for their team to get two more players on the field, but it was to no avail. Winslow’s quarterback took the snap, ran to the right and was barely touched on his way to the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown.
“You were a few guys short on that one,” the side judge said to Geagan and other members of Bucksport’s coaching staff following the play.
Geagan shook his head, looked down and put his hands on his knees. He had no verbal response.
It was that type of night for the Golden Bucks on Friday, as the visiting Black Raiders scored 37 unanswered points between the late first and early fourth quarters to win the game 43-12.
“Our guys are hungry, and we’re much more experienced than last year, but we still have a ways to go,” Bucksport head coach Joel Sankey said. “There’s no excuse for some of the mistakes we made.”
Although Bucksport responded to Winslow’s early score with a Carter Tolmasoff touchdown to make the score 6-6 early in the first quarter, the Golden Bucks couldn’t stop the Black Raiders’ versatile rushing attack the rest of the way. Bucksport also had problems with its kicking game and gave Winslow several first downs via penalties.
“They were more disciplined than us tonight, and it showed,” Sankey said. “I liked the hitting — our guys were definitely physical — but we need to get better on special teams and have a lot of areas we can improve.”
One bright spot for Bucksport was Tolmasoff’s versatility. The senior played both running back and quarterback at various points and remained in the game until the very end.
At the end of one series early in the fourth quarter, Tolmasoff walked to the sideline, doused his face with a water bottle and gradually took off his helmet. Rather than going to the bench to sit down, he stayed on the sideline and cheered loudly for his teammates.
As Tolmasoff tried to catch his breath, a member of Bucksport’s coaching staff told him he was done playing for the night. Yet Tolmasoff wasn’t having it. He returned to the field when the Golden Bucks got the ball back several plays later.
“He’s a tough kid, and he plays at a high level the entire game,” Sankey said. “That’s the type of leader you want. Even when you’re down by a lot, he doesn’t give in. He always finds that extra bit of energy and keeps going.”
Fortunately for Tolmasoff and his teammates, Friday night’s game was a preseason game that won’t count toward Bucksport’s record. It’s also unlikely the Golden Bucks will face anybody as tough as Winslow, which has won back-to-back Class C titles.
Still, losing is a rarity when it comes to Bucksport football. The team regularly makes it deep into the playoffs, and last season’s 3-5 campaign was an aberration for a program of the Golden Bucks’ caliber. Sankey’s team is more experienced and will likely finish with a better record in 2016, but he admitted there are areas of the game where the team isn’t where he wants it to be.
“Those mental mistakes where we don’t have the right guys out there, those can’t happen,” he said. “We need to get mentally tougher. There’s no doubt we can hit hard, but mental toughness is just as important as physical toughness.”
Bucksport opens its regular season at home against the Washington Academy Raiders on Friday, Sept. 2. The Golden Bucks beat the Raiders 27-6 last season.