BUCKSPORT — At the end of an emotional school week at Bucksport High School, two hours on the football field gave everyone a reason to smile.
This night, the school’s Homecoming game and home opener, was always going to be a big one for the football team and everyone else in the Bucksport community. Yet there was something much bigger than football on the minds of the Golden Bucks, who weren’t just playing for a win in the Class D North standings; they were playing for their team manager, Jocelyn Tozier.
On the morning of Saturday, Sept. 7, Tozier, a senior at Bucksport, suffered what the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office called “serious injuries” in a car accident on Route 1 in Orland. With their dedicated manager of four years being forced to spend the week in the hospital rather than in school and on the gridiron, the Golden Bucks wanted to put forth an effort that would lift her spirits.
“We’re always motivated when we go out there, but I think we were extra hungry this week,” senior David Gross said. “As a team, we wanted to leave everything out there for her.”
From start to finish, Bucksport couldn’t have left much more. With their fellow student on their minds and a raucous Homecoming crowd behind them, the Golden Bucks outplayed Dexter in every facet of the game to earn a 43-7 win in a contest that might as well have been over before it had even begun.
Bucksport pulled ahead 6-0 after 3 minutes, 47 seconds with a 63-yard drive that culminated in a 1-yard touchdown plunge from Jaxon Gross. The Golden Bucks (2-0) saw their next drive fall inches short after Ty Giberson fumbled near the goal line following a long run, but the home team then stuffed the Dexter offense and got another touchdown run from Gross to extend the lead to 14-0.
Bucksport’s defense was caught napping on the first play of the second quarter as Dexter scored a 54-yard touchdown on a reverse to cut the home team’s lead to 14-7. Yet the Golden Bucks responded with a Josh Miller touchdown run and 2-point conversion pass from Brady Findlay to Logan Stanley to pull ahead 22-7 for the final points of the half.
After immediately forcing the Dexter offense to go three-and-out to begin the second half, Bucksport got a 36-yard touchdown run from Miller to make the score 30-7. Miller scored yet again when he scampered in from 31 yards out late in the third quarter, and Gross added a third touchdown of his own in the fourth to cap off a showing so dominant it left even the team’s head coach a bit surprised.
“Gentlemen, that was a clinic,” an impressed Joel Sankey told his players in the post-game huddle. “Offense, defense — absolutely a terrific effort all around. … [Jocelyn] would be very proud.”
Bucksport amassed 542 yards of offense on the evening and held Dexter to fewer than 100. The Golden Bucks outgained the Tigers 180-13 in the first quarter alone.
A whopping 453 of those yards came via Bucksport’s three-pronged rushing attack of Gross, Miller and Giberson. Each of those three running backs weighs in at more than 200 pounds, and with the team’s success running the ball opening up the passing game for Findlay, Dexter simply couldn’t keep up with the Golden Bucks’ firepower.
“The thing is that there’s no jealousy at all,” Jaxon Gross said of the Golden Bucks’ beefy running back trio, all three members of which are underclassmen. “What we have, not many teams can say they have something like that.”
During the week, Tozier got the chance to speak with the entire Bucksport team from the hospital via FaceTime. Daily chats with their manager provided even more motivation for the Golden Bucks to deliver a dominant performance.
“She got us going,” David Gross said. “Being able to talk to her and show her that she’s always part of our team was big for us, and she gave us pep talks that had us ready to run through a wall. … It got everyone really hyped.”
Bucksport will be back in action next Friday, Sept. 20, when it hosts Washington Academy (0-1) at 7 p.m. The Raiders, who have a bye this weekend, lost 53-0 to Foxcroft in Week 1.
Just as they did on this night, the Golden Bucks will have Tozier on their minds when they take to the Carmichael Field turf in a week’s time. Even though a Bucksport team with Gold Ball aspirations will never be content with a single victory, the one it earned for its manager on this September night meant far more than the numbers on the scoreboard.
“Coming out and winning this one for her, that’s we wanted to do,” David Gross said. “We bought in together as a team and made that our goal all week, and we’re all happy we could get it done.”
Eagles, Trojans fall at home
The Ellsworth/Sumner and Mount Desert Island football teams fell to home defeats Friday night in their respective Week 2 contests.
At Tug White Stadium, Ellsworth/Sumner lost 50-44 to Gray-New Gloucester in the team’s second eight-man game. Senior Connor Crawford had 323 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 39 carries for the Eagles, who fell to 0-2 on the season.
Gray-New Gloucester’s win snapped the state’s second-longest active losing streak at 29 games. The Patriots had not won a game since posting a 32-14 home victory over Lake Region on Oct. 2, 2015.
In Bar Harbor, MDI hosted Maine Central Institute (2-0) and fell to a 47-8 defeat. Junior Baylor Landsman scored the lone touchdown on the night for the Trojans (1-1).
MDI will be on the road against Old Town (0-2) at 7 p.m. next Friday. Ellsworth/Sumner will look to notch its first victory of the season when it takes on Mount Ararat (1-1) at 1 p.m. next Saturday, Sept. 21, in Topsham.