BUCKSPORT — The Bucksport football team didn’t need much added motivation going into a home playoff game Friday night. Before the game even kicked off, it got some.
Just as it’s done time and time again over the years, Bucksport came through the southeast end zone at Carmichael Field with players hoisting the team’s yellow-painted hammer as well as purple-and-gold and American flags as it ran toward midfield. This time, though, the Mattanawcook Academy Lynx were standing on the 50-yard line, blocking the Golden Bucks’ traditional run to midfield.
The Golden Bucks were having none of it. They ran toward midfield anyways, and from the moment the two teams converged, it was clear Bucksport was more than up for the challenge. The team planted the flag with school colors at midfield, and after a brief skirmish ensued, it was the Golden Bucks that laughed last on the field.
Bucksport rode pregame emotions to a 49-6 victory over visiting Mattanawcook on Friday to advance to the Class D North championship game. The win, which was the Golden Bucks’ fifth in a row, put the team within a game of playing for the state title for the first time in three years.
“We played with a lot of emotion tonight,” sophomore lineman David Gross said. “When they did that, I feel like that was a sign of disrespect to not just my team but to my community. … That really offended us.”
Bucksport took advantage of key Mattanawcook defensive mistakes to start the game. The Lynx dropped what should have been an interception on the opening drive and committed an untimely personal foul on the next possession, and Chase Carmichael capitalized with rushing and passing touchdowns to give the Golden Bucks (6-3) a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
After Mattanawcook scored on the ensuing drive, Bucksport’s passing game took over. Carmichael threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Carter Tolmasoff to restore the team’s two-score lead with 9 minutes, 53 seconds remaining and added a third touchdown pass on the next possession with a 22-yard toss to Logan Stanley that put the Golden Bucks up 27-6 at halftime.
“I had plenty of time in the pocket all game because of our offensive line,” Carmichael said. “When I can get the ball to Carter, Keigan or anybody as well as I did, we know we’re going to have a good night.”
Mattanawcook (6-4) failed to take advantage of an excellent kickoff return to start the second half, and Bucksport made the Lynx pay with a 33-yard Tolmasoff touchdown run. The key play, though, came when Gross converted a fake punt on fourth down near midfield to extend the drive.
“The coaches didn’t even know about it,” Gross said. “We had practiced it all year and hadn’t run it yet, but we saw an opening that was right there. It was pretty fun.”
Tolmasoff soon scored again from 8 yards out, and the ensuing extra point made the score 41-6 to send the game to running time. The junior added yet another touchdown with 4:36 left for the game’s final score.
Had the game been played a week earlier, Tolmasoff might not have been available to play. He burned his hand on a piece of metal in shop class during Bucksport’s bye week, but having an extra week to recover meant he was ready to go.
“It hurt a bit, but that doesn’t really matter because I was ready to help my team,” Tolmasoff said. “Chase zips them in there perfect.”
Carmichael finished the game with 12 completions for 189 yards and three touchdowns in the passing game and 21 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Tolmasoff had 145 rushing yards and four total touchdowns, and Devin Darveau and Skylar MacNair had seven solo tackles each on defense.
Bucksport will be on the road against Foxcroft (7-2) in the regional title game at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10. The game will be a rematch of the Week 4 matchup between the Golden Bucks and Ponies, which Foxcroft won 45-18.
Since that game, the Golden Bucks have made significant improvements on both sides of the ball. The team has outscored its opponents by a 238-40 margin — an average of nearly 40 points per game — and its defense, which struggled at times earlier in the year, has held opponents to a single touchdown in four straight games.
On Friday night, those differences were evident. When Bucksport traveled to Lincoln to face Mattanawcook earlier this year, it took three overtimes for the Golden Bucks to pull out the victory. This contest, on the other hand, was the team’s second-biggest margin of victory this season.
“I have one word: Wow,” Bucksport head coach Joel Sankey told his players after the game. “Gentleman, that’s how you play this game.”
Two games from a state title, the Golden Bucks have a chance to play at least 48 more minutes of it. Coming away with a trophy won’t be easy, but Bucksport’s past month has shown the team isn’t fazed.
“We’re going to be underdogs, and everyone’s going to pick us to lose,” Gross said. “At the same time, we have a special team. It’s up to us how far we can go.”