BUCKSPORT — Keeping up with the Bucksport offense has rarely been an easy task for opposing football teams over the years. Last season, the Golden Bucks made that task borderline unfair.
Few teams in Maine high school football history have posted the sorts of numbers Bucksport did in 2018, a season in which the Golden Bucks averaged 48.2 points and surpassed the 50-point mark in five of their 10 contests. Loaded at every offensive position, Bucksport went 8-2 and finished the year as the Class D North runner-up.
This season, the Bucksport offense has some shuffling to do at the skill positions as three key players, running backs Carter Tolmasoff and Luke Wardwell and wide receiver Tyson Gray, have graduated. Yet even if there are some uncertainties as to how the Golden Bucks can replace those players, the team has one thing that can give any offense a leg up: size.
Everywhere from the backfield to the offensive line, this Bucksport team has bulk that would make even some mega-school powerhouses in football-crazed Florida, Ohio and Texas jealous. From the experienced veterans all the way down to the young newcomers, the Golden Bucks are set to tower over Class D North defenses when the regular season starts next week.
“We have a lot of kids who are very big and very strong,” Bucksport head coach Joel Sankey said. “When you look at the team we have this year, I think that’s going to be one of our biggest advantages.”
At running back, Bucksport boasts three players who tip the scales at more than 200 pounds. Freshman Jaxon Gross is the Golden Bucks’ largest player at the position at 215 pounds, though sophomores Ty Giberson and Josh Miller are close behind at 210 and 205, respectively.
Hard-nosed backs who play their roles as bruisers, Gross, Giberson and Miller also boast the strength needed to bowl over opposing defensive linemen, linebackers and safeties. That will give Bucksport a different look at running back in comparison to last year’s team, which used the blazing speed of Tolmasoff and Wardwell to run past Little Ten Conference foes.
“They all bench 200-plus [pounds] and squat 400-plus [pounds],” senior offensive lineman David Gross said of the team’s three running backs. “It’s insane to be that strong at such young ages.”
Elsewhere, the Golden Bucks return much of the offensive line that paved the way for last year’s dominant rushing attack with Dawson Eaton joining 2018 starters Julian Shook, Owen Gaudreau, Gavin Billings and the elder Gross in the trenches. Gross (first-team offense) and Billings (second-team offense) were All-LTC selections last year, and Shook was a second-team selection at tackle in 2017.
After an offseason of work in the weight room, Bucksport’s linemen are back even bigger and stronger than they were a year ago. Stifling the Golden Bucks on offense will require defenses to establish consistent penetration, and given the experience and stature of this offensive line, that might prove difficult.
“We average like 250 pounds up front,” Gross said. “It’s crazy.”
At tight end, Cameron Soper, the tallest player on offense at 6-foot-4, will add another dimension to the Golden Bucks’ blocking schemes. He’ll also be a weapon in the passing game for quarterback Brady Findlay, who has a full year as a starter under his belt after replacing Chase Carmichael, the LTC’s all-time leading passer, last season.
“Brady’s looking very good,” Sankey said. “We’ve had success with quarterbacks here over the years, and he’s been one of those players for us. A lot of it comes down to timing patterns and the three-step drop, and Brady has really picked that up.”
Bucksport’s first regular season game will be at home at 7 p.m. next Friday, Sept. 6, against Mattanawcook Academy. The two teams most recently met in the Class D North semifinals last season with the Golden Bucks exploding on offense in a 77-36 win.
A showdown with Mattanawcook, another perennial threat in the LTC, will provide an ideal opening test for a Bucksport team looking to maintain momentum after three years of incremental improvements. It could also yield an early answer as to how much a dedicated offseason in the weight room has paid off for these Bucks.
“We’ve had a lot of guys show up for us and buy in during the offseason, and our weights have gone up tremendously,” Gross said. “Football is finally here, and when you put in the work like we have not just in the summer but the spring, too, it just motivates you even more.”