Ponies’ balance too much for Bucksport in D North final

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HAMPDEN — The Foxcroft Academy football team was faced with an opponent that had erupted for 77 points in its previous game just five nights earlier.

So the Ponies countered with the obvious strategy — they outscored ’em.

Five different Foxcroft running backs accounted for six touchdowns and 368 rushing yards as coach Danny White’s club defeated Bucksport 43-26 at a cold and windy Weatherbee Complex at Hampden Academy on Saturday night, Nov. 10 to capture its second straight Class D North championship.

“I don’t even feel the cold right now I’m so excited,” said Foxcroft senior wide receiver and defensive back Hyatt Smith. “But we played hard, everyone did what we needed them to do. We were together, we had energy, and overall it was an awesome game.”

Foxcroft Bucksport

Photo courtesy of Foxcroft Academy junior Jacob Ireland
CLASS D NORTH CHAMPS — The Foxcroft Academy football team defeated Bucksport High School 43-26 on the evening of Nov. 10 at Hampden Academy to capture the 2018 Class D North championship. The now 10-0 Ponies won the regional title for the second year in a row, to advance to the state championship against South champion Wells High School (11-0).

The win, Foxcroft’s 18th straight in Little Ten Conference play since moving back to Class D from Class C last year, advances the undefeated Ponies (10-0 this fall) to a state-final rematch against Wells at the University of Maine in Orono.

Wells, which defeated Foxcroft 48-0 in last year’s title game at Portland, improved to 11-0 this season and extended its overall winning streak to 27 games by defeating Oak Hill of Wales 54-6 in Friday’s Class D South championship game.

The Class D North final was moved from Oakes Field in Dover-Foxcroft to the artificial turf at Hampden Academy due to deteriorating field conditions on the natural turf at top-ranked Foxcroft’s home facility.

The change certainly didn’t hurt Foxcroft’s offense, as the Ponies churned out scoring drives of 61, 62, 51, 59, 54, 55 and 54 yards while amassing 430 yards of total offense.

“We did a really good job of maintaining drives and finishing them, turning them into points while using the clock,” said White.

Senior quarterback Matt Spooner directed the attack while rushing for a game-high 139 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Classmate Michaleb Niles worked the interior of Bucksport’s defense for 98 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries while sophomore Logan Martin (six carries, 73 yards and a touchdown) and senior Jeremy Richard (8-43, TD) made the most of open space while running sweeps toward the perimeter.

“It definitely keeps the defense on their toes,” said Spooner. “It’s great that we have that versatility, and up front the guys on the line really battle in the trenches.”

Foxcroft’s defense also held Bucksport to far less than the 11 touchdowns it scored in its 77-36 semifinal victory over Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln on Monday night.

Senior halfback Carter Tolmasoff rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries but was limited to just two carries of more than 10 yards after scoring five touchdowns on runs totaling 242 yards during the second-ranked Golden Bucks’ semifinal appearance.

“All season he had a lot of cutback lanes that got him a lot of big yards,” said Richard. “He’s a great running back, so we really focused on getting our front side to front him and our back side to stay on his back hip and keep those cutback lanes closed.”

Foxcroft, which edged Bucksport 21-20 during Week 4 of the regular season, built a 20-12 halftime lead in the rematch. The Ponies scored on three of their first four possessions on runs of 3 yards by Martin and 1 yard by Richard in the first quarter and 3 yards by Niles in the second quarter.

That scoring offset a 41-yard touchdown run up the middle by Lucas Wardwell (8 carries, 73 yards) on Bucksport’s second possession of the game and a 1-yard scoring pass from Brady Findlay to Tyson Gray with 23.5 seconds left in the half.

The Ponies built on their lead after taking the second-half kickoff as Spooner capped off a six-play, 59-yard march with a 4-yard keeper to the end zone to make it 27-12 less than three minutes into the third quarter.

Bucksport threatened later in the period, marching 55 yards to the Foxcroft 30 before defensive tackle Caleb Ladd forced a Tolmasoff fumble and the Ponies’ Sam Clawson recovered at the 41.

That led to Luke Stedman’s 22-yard field goal that pushed Foxcroft’s lead to more than two possessions at 30-12 with 9:31 left in the game.

Bucksport answered with its longest drive of the game, a 77-yard march that produced Tolmasoff’s 2-yard scoring run to cut the Golden Bucks’ deficit to 30-18 with 5:19 left.

It took Foxcroft just 62 seconds to respond as Spooner scored on a 59-yard run to make it 36-18 with 4:17 remaining.

Senior Sekton Wandikbo added a 16-yard run for the Ponies with 1:35 to play before Findlay (9 of 20 passing, 106 yards, 2 TDs) hit Gray with a 36-yard touchdown strike to close out the scoring with 19.5 seconds remaining.

“At halftime we got on the bus because it was so cold and while we were sitting there Hyatt said, ‘We’ve got to come out strong. If we score, get a clean stop and score again, the game’s over,’” said Spooner. “That’s pretty much what we did. We came out strong in the second half and got the win.”

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