BUCKSPORT — Facing off against opponents in pads for the first time in 2018, the Bucksport football team gave its fans plenty of reasons to be excited.
No matter the opponent, Bucksport seemed impossible to stop whenever it had the ball in the team’s home scrimmage Saturday afternoon. The host team made key blocks in the trenches, big runs around the edges and long passes over the middle early and often in the three-hour showdown.
Although these weren’t real games being played, the efficiency with which the Golden Bucks ran their offense gave opponents just a taste of what they can do. As Bucksport showed in scoring a total of nine touchdowns against Ellsworth/Sumner, Washington Academy and Camden Hills, this is a team with no shortage of weapons when it has the ball.
“I think we have a very strong team that should be one of the best in the league if not the best,” senior Carter Tolmasoff said. “We’ve got a lot of explosiveness and will have the chance to rip off a bunch of big plays.”
Tolmasoff, a speedy running back who was named first-team selection to the All-Little Ten Conference first team last year, is one of many key 2017 contributors returning for the Bucksport offense at the skill positions. The Golden Bucks will also bring back two All-LTC second-teamers, running back Luke Wardwell and tight end Jacob Ames, as well as potent receiving threats in senior Tyson Gray and sophomore Logan Stanley.
Those players are prepared to thrive under an offensive line that has a chance to be one of the strongest in all of Class D this season. Junior David Gross, an All-LTC first-team selection at guard last year, is expected to battle his way back from injury, and second-teamers Nate Russell and Julian Shook will give Bucksport an excellent push up front.
“We have a lot going for us because we’ve got the guys who know what it takes and know how to put in the work and the effort,” Gray said. “Instead of just being good at one or two spots, we have good talent and really great players everywhere.”
Last season, Bucksport’s offense played a major role in the team’s late-season turnaround. After a 1-3 start, the Golden Bucks averaged 47.3 points per game over the next four contests to close out the regular season. The team then dropped 49 points on Mattanawcook Academy in the Class D North semifinals before losing on the road to Foxcroft in the regional title game.
Bucksport will face one particular challenge on offense, though, as it must replace Chase Carmichael, one of the most prolific passers in state history. As the starting quarterback for the Golden Bucks from 2014-17, Carmichael, who was named LTC Co-Player of the Year last year along with Foxcroft’s Nick Clawson, passed for more than 5,000 yards over the course of his high school career.
The task of replacing Carmichael has gone to junior Brady Findlay. Filling his former teammate’s shoes won’t be easy, but Findlay showed his own excellent command of the Bucksport offense Saturday with three touchdown passes as the Golden Bucks excelled against all three opponents.
“Brady’s doing a great job, and I think we’re to the point now where we’re seeing something better from him every time we’re out there on the field,” Tolmasoff said. “He’s a very fast learner, and he’s only going to keep getting better as he goes.”
No scores and stats were kept from Saturday’s scrimmages, but the Bucksport coaches and players were more than satisfied as they met at the corner of the practice field following the scrimmages. It’s not always that an entire team is on the same page after just one week of fall practice, but from the first play to the post-game huddle, this group of players was nothing short of a cohesive unit.
“You should be very proud of yourselves,” head coach Joel Sankey told his players. “We have plenty of things to work on, but this was a good start and gives a lot of positives we can build on.”
Bucksport will close out its preseason slate when it hosts John Bapst at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24. The Golden Bucks hung with the Class C Crusaders in exhibition play last year but ultimately dropped a tight contest on the road in Bangor.
After that, the Golden Bucks will kick off the regular season at home at 7 p.m. next Friday, Aug. 31, against Houlton. They will then play road games against Stearns/Schenck and Dexter in Week 2 and Week 3, respectively, before finishing off the first half of the schedule with a home game against Foxcroft in Week 4.
“I think we have to be really confident about where we are, but we also know that we have the chance to get even better.” Gray said. “For us seniors, we’ve been saying how bad we want that Gold Ball since freshman year. Now it’s time to go out and get it.”