HERMON — All season long, the Bucksport football team has heard the chatter.
The Golden Bucks have been called overrated; they’ve been told they’ve preyed on a week schedule; they’ve even been told they’d be exposed against a strong opponent. During practices and games, Bucksport players have even repeated these adages to themselves as a reminder of what they’re out to prove.
There’s plenty of work still to be done if Bucksport wants to achieve its goal of winning a state championship for the first time in 15 years. Yet after the Golden Bucks’ latest performance, a shutout victory that spoiled a Class C power’s Homecoming festivities, doubts about their pedigree can be safely put to rest.
Bucksport delivered a bold message to its critics with a 28-0 victory over Hermon in Friday night’s crossover showdown at Hermon High School. The win saw the Golden Bucks assert their physical prowess on both sides of the ball from start to finish to pass their sternest test to date with flying colors.
“Our kids were hearing things, and I think that gave them a little extra motivation,” Bucksport head coach Joel Sankey said. “This was a great football team we played, and we were ready to come out and play tough.”
After both teams went three-and-out to start the game, the Golden Bucks (5-0) used a series of 5- and 6-yard runs between the tackles to move the ball deep into Hermon territory. Bucksport’s success running the ball continued in the red zone as Josh Miller scored the opening touchdown from 2 yards out to give the visitors a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Hermon (3-2) gave Bucksport the ball in plus territory after a failed fake punt on 4th-and-18, and the Golden Bucks responded with more success on the ground to earn another red-zone trip. Brady Findlay then connected with Ty Giberson for 16 yards on a bubble screen to set up another 2-yard score from Miller as the visitors pulled ahead 14-0 with 8 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first half.
Although the Hawks finally moved the chains for the first time midway through the second quarter, Bucksport ultimately forced another punt to take over with 3:44 left in the half. Findlay then used the short passing game to move the ball down the field, and the Golden Bucks stretched the lead to 21-0 with 23 seconds left in the half when Jaxon Gross scored on a 1-yard run.
“For me, it was just about stepping up and doing my job,” Findlay said. “Our wide receivers are great, and our blockers are great. That makes it a lot easier.”
Bucksport followed a Hermon three-and-out to start the second half with a stalled drive of its own, but the Golden Bucks retained possession after recovering a muff on the ensuing punt return. Miller put the nail in the coffin on the very next snap, breaking multiple tackles and carrying a defender into the end zone on a 24-yard touchdown run that resulted in the final points of the night.
“I put my head down and told myself to keep pushing forward,” Miller said. “I have to give all the credit to our line because they opened up the field for me. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Indeed, Bucksport’s ability to move the ball was largely a product of its offensive line. Even though the offense produced fewer big plays than in previous games this season, the Golden Bucks’ success in the trenches led to long scoring drives that wore down the Hermon front seven and took significant time off the clock.
More impressive, though, was the Golden Bucks’ showing on defense. Hermon, which entered Friday night having scored a combined 125 points in its past three games, amassed just 48 yards of total offense against a Bucksport unit that has now pitched 14 consecutive quarters of shutout football.
“We’ve been playing physical football, which is the key to our defense,” Miller said. “It all starts with the work we’ve done in the weight room to get stronger. We want to show that every time we come out on the field.”
After the two teams went through the handshake line, the Bucksport players let out a stream of celebratory yells in Pottle Field’s southwest end zone. Gavin Billings and Dawson Eaton bumped chests, and David Gross shouted out a message to the rest of the state: “Keep sleeping on us.”
As Bucksport’s coaches lauded their players’ efforts in the post-game huddle, one assistant noted that the scoreboard had been shut off the instant the game clock hit zero. Playing the Golden Bucks has been an experience opponents have wanted to forget almost immediately, and not even this contest, which came against one of the top teams from a higher classification, could prove to be an exception.
The tests will keep coming for Bucksport, which will host Class D South contender Oak Hill (3-2; one win via forfeit) at 7 p.m. next Friday, Oct. 11. Yet at 5-0, the Golden Bucks are halfway to their dream of a Gold Ball, and after turning one of the toughest games on their schedule into a rout, they’re more than ready for the road ahead of them.
“Our kids wanted to prove something and show what they’re made of,” Sankey said. “They definitely did.”
Eagles, Trojans fall in defensive battles
The Ellsworth/Sumner and Mount Desert Island football teams fell to 1-4 on the season Friday with losses in their respective road games.
In Readfield, Ellsworth/Sumner put forth a valiant effort in an eight-man clash with first-place Maranacook (5-0). The Eagles fell behind 14-0 in the first half but kept the game competitive the rest of the way in a 22-12 loss.
Senior Connor Crawford had 180 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown on offense and five solo tackles, five assisted tackles and an interception on defense. Noah Hughes racked up an impressive nine solo tackles, four assisted tackles and a sack to add to the Eagles’ strong defensive showing.
MDI took on Waterville and lost 15-14 to fall to its fourth straight defeat. The Trojans led for much of the game but fell behind on a late Waterville touchdown and couldn’t reclaim the lead.
Hunter Gray led MDI with 144 rushing yards. Quarterback Baylor Landsman entered the game in the fourth quarter and passed for 52 yards in his return from an injury suffered Sept. 20 against Old Town.
Both teams will be back in action at 7 p.m. next Friday. Ellsworth/Sumner will host Traip Academy (3-2), and MDI will take on John Bapst (3-2) at Husson University.