BANGOR, Maine — A year ago, John Bapst senior Dan Keefe was all that stood between a winning touchdown for Bucksport and bitter defeat for the Crusaders.
Saturday night, he found himself in an eerily similar situation, once again with the game on the line.
In 2008, Bucksport back Nate Warren ran through him to give Bucksport a one-point victory, but this time around, Bapst’s 5-foot-8, 150-pound defensive back made the play of the game.
“Last year, we were in overtime and it was the last play. Nate Warren came up and I hit him, but he ran over me and scored the touchdown,” Keefe said. “Tonight, I thought they were going to throw it, then I thought they’d run up the middle, but they made it a bootleg.”
With 1:08 to play, Keefe stood up Golden Bucks quarterback Sam Carmichael at the 1-yard line and drove him out of bounds on a possible game-winning, two-point conversion attempt to preserve a 19-18 Crusaders victory at Winkin Complex.
I just saw him stretching for the end zone and made the play,” Keefe said. “It’s great personal redemption for me. I don’t have to have nightmares about Nate Warren running over me any more.”
Bucksport would try an onside kick — twice — but both times grazed the ball. Bapst took over at the Bucks’ 39-yard line and ran the clock out.
The dramatic two-point conversion attempt was set up by 10-play drive from the JB-35 after Bucksport’s John White recovered a Bapst fumbled snap with 5:43 left.
The drive slowed inside the 10, but Alex Giosia punched through for a 1-yard touchdown run right up the middle.
Bill Wetherbee led the Crusaders with a game-high 138 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries behind some solid blocking from linemen Jason Pulley, Bill Stoddard, John Ashman, Keith Nelson and Chris Desmond along with tight end Max Andrews.
“In the first half, [Wetherbee] got a little tired and we tried to go in some other directions, but in the second half he came and said, ‘give it to me,’ and when we needed him the most, he led the way,” said Crusaders’ head coach Dan O’Connell.
Bapst’s senior tailback also set up the other touchdown with an 87-yard kickoff return down the sideline to open the second half.
“We practiced that about 10 times this week. I just saw Shane Hass lead-blocking for me and I just made one cut and I was in open ground,” Wetherbee recalled. “I never saw the guy coming diagonal at me. I was kind of mad he tackled me at the 3.”
No matter, as teammate and quarterback Hass took it in on a run up the middle to make it 12-6 Bapst 20 seconds into the third quarter.
Bucksport would tie it 12-12 on a three-play, 49-yard drive capped by Vinny Tymoczko’s 33-yard TD run off right tackle and down the sideline with 3:19 left in the third.
Bapst wasted little time answering with a 70-yard drive that started with Wetherbee’s 42-yard run up the middle and ended with his 2-yard surge up the middle with 39 seconds left in the quarter. The ensuing extra-point kick was the only one not blocked by Bucksport as sophomore Mark Dieuveuil drilled it through the uprights.
Tymoczko led the Bucks with 110 yards on 25 carries.
The teams combined for 110 yards in penalties and five turnovers.
“It’ll take me eight hours to break this game film down,” O’Connell said with a sigh. “Neither one of us is even close to being in the form we want to be. It was a great game showcasing two good teams, but we both have a lot of work to do.”
Bucksport actually outgained Bapst 195-179 yards on the ground and by 40 yards overall.
“This was basically the first time our varsity played a full game since we lost our exhibition game to weather, but I thought we played pretty good,” said Bucks coach Joel Sankey. “You take a couple penalties and a special teams play away, and it’s a very different game.”