BANGOR — In some cases, a football team’s best offense can be its defense.
John Bapst’s normally high-octane offense was shut down by a physical Bucksport club Friday night, but the Crusaders’ defense held the Golden Bucks offense in check.
Coach Dan O’Connell’s team limited the Golden Bucks to two first downs in the second half – one coming on a desperation play at the end of the game – while Jordan Charpentier and Andrew Catlin hooked up for a 58-yard touchdown pass as the Crusaders grinded out a 7-6 LTC Class C victory at Cameron Stadium.
Even though O’Connell was certainly happy his club improved to 5-1, he and his players were thanking their lucky stars after this one ended.
“Our defense is really going to set the tone for every game,” said senior lineman Chris Desmond. “If we’re doing well on defense, our offense pulls through, and if it doesn’t our defense picks up the slack.”
That was the case in this one, as the Crusaders failed to finish on some scoring opportunities.
Bapst drove to the Bucks’ 18-yard line on the game’s initial possession only to miss a field goal, and three of their final four first-half possessions ended in turnovers as the teams went into halftime scoreless.
The Crusaders wasted no time getting on the scoreboard after the break, with Charpentier lofting a perfect pass down the left sideline to Catlin, who ran a fly route and beat his defender and caught the ball in stride.
Mark Dieuveuil’s extra-point kick gave Bapst a 7-0 lead, and that extra point would prove to be crucial later.
“Andrew Catlin made a great catch and the line did a great job blocking,” said Charpentier, who completed 14 of 24 passes for 232 yards.
After a Bucksport three-and-out, the Crusaders subsequently drove to the Bucksport-11, looking for the knockout punch, but Dieuveuil’s field-goal attempt from 28 yards out was blocked, and Chris Powell returned it 80 yards for a touchdown.
Most of the Bapst players weren’t aware the ball was still live.
“That’s completely on me, because the kids were confused on the rule,” O’Connell said. “We need to clean that up and do a better job.”
But O’Connell’s defense rose up when Bucksport went for the 2-point conversion and the lead, as Kurt Massey batted down Mike Cummings’ pass.
“We went for two points to win the game, the kid was open, we just didn’t execute,” Bucksport coach Joel Sankey said.
Bucksport (3-3) had plenty of chances throughout the fourth quarter as it had the ball in Bapst territory on its final three possessions, but the Crusaders’ big defensive front of Desmond, Keith Nelson, John Ashman, Bill Stoddard and Brandon Blustajn was too tough.
“Our defense really pulled through for us,” said the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Desmond, who did his best William “Refrigerator” Perry impression late in the game.
The Crusaders played him as a fullback in their power-I sets as they wound the clock down late, and he ran for 19 yards on three carries.
Bucksport got the ball back with just under a minute to go at its own 30, and Cummings got loose in the open field on the final desperation play, but the Crusaders hemmed him in toward the sideline and forced him out of bounds at the Bapst 30 to end it.
The athletic Cummings played a solid game, leading the Bucks with 85 yards rushing.
“We had opportunities theres no doubt, but its a credit to Bucksport, a well-coached, hard-nosed, tough-nosed town, those kids are not going to give up, they hung in and hung in and hung in,” said O’Connell.
Bucksport’s own defense shined with Zach Hall and Jared Young each recording interceptions.
“I’m very proud of them, I thought they played their hearts out, we were a little undermanned going into the game,” Sankey said. “These kids dont quit, they’re tough kids. I’m very, very proud of them.”
Catlin led all Bapst receivers with three catches for 110 yards.
BUCKSPORT (3-3) 0 0 6 0 — 6
JOHN BAPST (5-1) 0 0 7 0 — 7
JB – Catlin 58 pass from Charpentier (Dieuveuil kick)
B – Powell 80 blocked field goal return TD (pass failed