BUCKSPORT, Maine — Derek Smith threw two touchdown passes and caught a third as John Bapst of Bangor upended top-ranked Bucksport 21-14 at Carmichael Field on Saturday to win its first LTC football championship in 32 years.
The win advances the second-seeded Crusaders to next Saturday’s Class C state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. John Bapst (10-1) will play 11-0 Winthrop, a 34-0 winner over Lisbon in Saturday’s Western C final.
Bucksport ends its season at 10-1.
Bill Wetherbee rushed for 139 yards on 26 carries for John Bapst, while the Crusaders’ defense held Bucksport star Nate Warren somewhat in check, as the Golden Bucks’ senior tailback rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries, but had just four runs of 10 yards or longer on the muddy field.
John Bapst scored on its first possession, with fullback Chase Huckestein taking a direct snap from center and passing to Smith — a converted wide receiver — along the left sideline for a 14-yard touchdown play with 8:15 left in the opening quarter.
Smith hit wideout Shane Hass with a 57-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-14 play with 4:28 left in the first half. Hass raced straight down the left sideline, and a Bucksport defender slipped on the play, leaving the John Bapst senior to make an uncontested catch at the Bucksport 40 and race into the end zone.
Bucksport gained renewed life just before halftime, as John Bapst got the ball at its 15 after a Golden Bucks punt with 1:11 left and tried to advance the ball despite having no time outs remaining.
Bucksport forced the Crusaders to punt, and Ray Wood returned the kick 18 yards to the John Bapst 30 with 41 seconds to play.
Warren took a first-down handoff from Kyle McGeechan and ran into the end zone eight seconds later, and McGeechan passed to Andrew Findlay for the two-point conversion that drew Bucksport within 14-8 at intermission.
Both teams struggled offensively amid deteriorating field conditions and oncoming fog in the second half.
John Bapst threatened midway through the third quarter, but a fourth-and-7 pass from Smith to Hass from the Bucksport 16 was broken up by Bucksport’s Bobby Alvarado.
The Crusaders scored an insurance touchdown midway through the fourth quarter on a 20-yard pass from Smith to freshman tight end Max Andrews, and Doug Dieuveuil made the third of his three successful extra-point kicks to extend the John Bapst lead to 21-8.
Bucksport answered immediately, driving 60 yards in seven plays with Warren scoring from 1 yard out to close the gap to seven points with 5:28 remaining.
Bucksport had one final possession from its 27 with 4:10 left, but was unable to manage a first down before John Bapst ran out the clock.