BUCKSPORT — Joel Sankey was uncertain what Monday night would bring. With a lot on the line and a few unusual factors in play, he had every reason to be.
After a strong regular season, Sankey’s Bucksport football team entered postseason play with a bye to the semifinals as the No. 2 team in the Little Ten Conference. Then, when, the team was finally ready to get back to action Friday, unplayable field conditions forced the game to be postponed three days.
“I was worried about us being rusty,” Sankey said. “You just don’t know for sure what’s going to happen when you go a half-month without taking the field.”
In addition to the 17-day wait, a Monday night game also added an unusual feel to a sport that’s known for Friday night lights and the occasional Saturday afternoon encounter at the high school level. In the end, though, the only unusual commodity that mattered was the crooked number the home team put on the scoreboard.
Bucksport put its offensive prowess on display Monday to defeat Mattanawcook Academy 77-36 and reach the Class D North championship game. It was a performance Sankey called one of the best he’s seen in his 24 years as coach and that showed the rest of the state just how dangerous these Golden Bucks can be when firing on all cylinders.
“That was astonishing,” Sankey said. “I’m at a loss for words. I’ve coached a lot of teams through a lot of games over the years, but I’ve never seen a team explode on offense like this in all my years.”
Bucksport went ahead 8-0 with 10 minutes, 5 seconds left in the first quarter Carter Tolmasoff scored on a 30-yard touchdown run and stretched it to 14-0 less than two minutes later when Tolmasoff scored on a 61-yard scamper. After both teams threw interceptions on the next two plays from scrimmage, a safety on a sack in the end zone gave the Golden Bucks (8-1) a 16-0 lead.
The Golden Bucks then embarked on a long drive that lasted the final seven minutes of the first quarter and culminated with a 10-yard Luke Wardwell touchdown run with 11:14 remaining in the second. Mattanawcook (7-3) got on the board when it caught the Bucksport defense sleeping on a 56-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds later to cut the lead to 22-6.
The game then turned into an all-out shootout on offense with Tolmasoff and Wardwell continuing to rack up points for Bucksport and Mattanawcook using its passing game to pick apart the Bucks over the middle of the field. The two teams combined for four touchdowns apiece in the final 8:30 of the first half as Bucksport took a 48-30 into halftime.
After Bucksport came up with a big defensive stop to begin the second half, the team ran nearly seven minutes off the clock before scoring on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Wardwell to Cam Soper with 3:55 left in the third quarter to stretch the lead to 56-30. That trick-play touchdown came on the first career pass attempt for Wardwell, who found his teammate open in the corner of the end zone for the score.
“The play was called, and I was like, ‘No way, this ain’t going to work,’” Wardwell said. “Someone forgot to guard [Soper], and he made a great play to catch it.”
Mattanawcook immediately made it a three-score game once again with a kickoff-return touchdown following several missed tackles by Bucksport. The mistake wouldn’t prove costly, though, as the Golden Bucks kept the Lynx off the scoreboard the rest of the way and added three touchdowns of their own to finish the game in running time.
Tolmasoff finished the game with five touchdowns and 363 yards on the ground, and Wardwell rushed for 189 yards and five scores of his own in addition to his passing touchdown. The Golden Bucks finished the year with 127 total points against Mattanawcook, which they defeated in the regional semifinals for the second consecutive season.
“I am just so incredibly proud of how our team played,” Tolmasoff said. “We knew what we could do if we played even to a sliver of our potential. … We just had to come out here and show it.”
Bucksport’s next game will be a Class D North title game rematch with top-ranked Foxcroft (9-0), the only team to have defeated the Golden Bucks all season. The Ponies beat the Golden Bucks 21-20 when the two teams met Sept. 21 in Bucksport.
This time, the Golden Bucks will make the trip to Dover-Foxcroft, where they lost 34-0 in last year’s regional championship game. That loss to the Ponies has stuck with Bucksport ever since, and with a spot in the state title game in sight, the team wants to finish the job.
“That won’t happen twice,” Wardwell said of the last year’s defeat to Foxcroft, which Bucksport will face at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10. “We know we’re a better team than we showed in that game, and we want to go out there and prove it to the world.”