BUCKSPORT — The road to victory wasn’t quite as smooth as it could have been for the Bucksport football team, but the result was all the same.
Coming off three games in which it had scored early and often against opponents near both the top and bottom of the Little Ten Conference standings, Bucksport entered Friday’s regular season finale at Carmichael Field hoping to so yet again. It took longer than expected for the Golden Bucks to get going, but once they did, they never stopped.
Bucksport got past a slow start to the game Friday to earn a 46-0 victory over Ellsworth/Sumner on Senior Night. The win was the fourth in a row for the Golden Bucks and gave the team a bye in the upcoming Class D North playoffs as the No. 2 seed.
“It was Senior Night, and a lot of guys were emotional,” Bucksport’s Carter Tolmasoff said. “We came out a little flat, but once we realized what we needed to fix, we were able to go out there and do what we needed to get the job done.”
After stopping Ellsworth/Sumner on the opening possession, Bucksport (7-1) appeared to be on the verge of another early explosion on offense when it took the ball into enemy territory in just two plays. That momentum came to a quick halt, though, as a personal foul cost the Golden Bucks 15 yards and ultimately led to a punt.
Taking over near its own goal line, Ellsworth/Sumner (3-5) used a bruising running game to drive down the field bit by bit. The Eagles used up 9 minutes, 15 seconds of the clock on a possession that went well into the second quarter and took the ball all the way to the red zone.
Once Bucksport stopped the Eagles on downs, though, it capitalized twice in quick succession on a pair of Luke Wardwell touchdown runs with 4:32 and 1:05 left in the half. Quarterback Brady Findlay passed for 2-point conversions both times, and the home team took a 16-0 lead into halftime.
“I think we knew at halftime that we had kind of made a little bit of a breakthrough,” Wardwell said. “We just needed to pick it up from there, and we knew we’d be in good shape if we went out there in the second half and got a big-time start.”
Tolmasoff gave Bucksport that “big-time start” immediately after the break as he took the second-half kickoff 75 yards to the end zone to stretch the lead to 24-0. Wardwell would then score twice more to reach a career-high four rushing touchdowns, and Findlay put the icing on the cake late in the fourth quarter with a 47-yard touchdown pass to Logan Stanley.
It wasn’t the typical game for Tolmasoff, who has frequently surpassed the 200-yard and four-touchdown marks throughout his high school career. Nevertheless, he found other ways to produce for his team with a strip-fumble and interception on defense following his kickoff-return score to start the second half.
“It’s about finding another way to come through in every situation you’re in,” Tolmasoff said. “Not everything is going to go 100 percent your way every time, but even then, you have to battle through it and find ways to make those plays to help your teammates.”
Losing to Bucksport alone didn’t end bring the season to an end for Ellsworth/Sumner, which entered the weekend in the sixth and final regional playoff position. Yet moments after the Eagles’ contest in Bucksport ended, Washington Academy put the finishing touches on an upset win over Mount View to move up to fifth place, knock Mount View down to sixth and dash the Eagles’ postseason dreams.
The regular season finale produced a much brighter outlook for Bucksport, which would have dropped to third with a loss as a result of Mattanawcook Academy’s 56-8 win over Stearns/Schenck. Instead, the Golden Bucks will host the winner of Mattanawcook (6-2) and Mount View (4-4) in the regional semifinals Nov. 2.
Should the Golden Bucks beat the Lynx or Mustangs in two weeks’ time, the team will return to the Class D North championship game for the second straight year. After finishing as regional runner-up last season, this year’s team is champing at the bit to take it a step — better yet, two steps — further.
“The second season starts now,” Wardwell said. “We want to get that Gold Ball.”