BUCKSPORT — With no seniors and no one having any significant varsity playing experience coming into the season, Foxcroft Academy’s offensive line has had to mature in a hurry this season.
According to FA head coach Danny White, his five juniors and sophomores have hit a growth spurt in recent weeks.
Friday night at Carmichael Field, they grew up before his eyes while helping lead the fifth-seeded Ponies to a 14-6 victory over No. 4 Bucksport in an Eastern Maine Class C quarterfinal.
“They’ve grown up a lot in the last 21 days, and it’s not that a light went off. It’s just that they’ve grown together,” said White.
Ponies center Brent Thomas, left guard Ethan Preble, left tackle Matt Lacasce, right guard Tim Weymouth, and right tackle Louis Lafache started strong and finished stronger as they paved the way for 257 rushing yards on 47 carries (5.5 yards per carry).
“We have a small line, but they were blowing Bucksport’s bigger kids off the line a lot of the time,” said senior halfback Dylan Andrews.
Andrews was the prime beneficiary of that blocking up front as he racked up 151 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries. Forty-seven of those yards came in the Ponies’ final drive when they got the ball back with 4:02 left and needed a couple of first downs to run out the clock.
The 5-4 Ponies will remain on the road and go north to take on unbeaten top seed Stearns of Millinocket next week. Bucksport finishes the season at 5-4.
Foxcroft took a 7-0 lead with 1:50 left in the first quarter by capping a 51-yard, five-play drive with a 21-yard TD run by Andrews on a sweep to the left and a Cody Coiley PAT kick.
The Ponies made it 14-0 on their very next drive, which was set up by a shanked punt that went backward two yards and gave the ball to the Ponies on the Bucks’ 31-yard line. Eight plays later, Jarrod Boone scored on a 14-yard TD run up the middle and Coiley kicked the PAT with 9:38 left in the half.
The second half played out differently as Bucksport stopped an FA drive at midfield and then blocked the punt attempt to take over on the FA-40. The Golden Bucks could move only 10 yards closer as a recovered fumble, a penalty and three incompletions — one on a dropped fourth-down pass that may have given the Bucks a first down — gave the ball back to the Ponies.
“We have been solid on defense all year, but the biggest thing tonight is we didn’t give up a single big play,” said White. “We also did a really good job of containing No. 11 because he’s dangerous, elusive and fast.”
Bucks quarterback Mike Cummings (No. 11) ran the ball 11 times for 42 yards, but only completed one of four passes for four yards before leaving the game with an ankle injury with 5:48 left to play.
“We really wanted to contain their quarterback, making sure he couldn’t scramble,” said Andrews.
“They played very aggressively and it was a very physical game tonight,” said Bucks coach Joel Sankey. “They definitely outplayed us on both sides of the ball up front in the first half.
“We made adjustments in the second half and they paid off, but we’re a very young team and I think our kids were very nervous and it showed in the first half.”
Bucksport was held to eight first downs and 148 total yards, 144 of which came on the ground. The Ponies, meanwhile, had 16 first downs to avenge a one-point loss to the Bucks six weeks ago.
Bucksport finally scored early in the fourth quarter as Shawn Smith ran it in from two yards out to cap a 11-play, 52-yard drive with 9:50 left in the game. The PAT kick was blocked.
“We didn’t move the ball last time we played them, so that was the biggest thing for us this time,” White said. “Early on we moved the ball and then our defense kind of took over, which was a good thing because in the second half, they stymied our offensive line and we couldn’t move the ball until late when we REALLY needed to.”
Foxcroft Academy (5-4) 7 7 0 0—14
Bucksport (5-4) 0 0 0 6— 6
FA—Andrews 21 run (Coiley kick)
FA—Boone 14 run (Coiley kick)
B—Smith 2 run (kick blocked)