Joel Sankey concedes his Bucksport High School football team has a talented group of players in the offensive backfield.
The veteran coach also said the crew, led by senior quarterback Mike Cummings, an All-LTC second-team choice last season, won’t reach its potential without strong play in the offensive line.
The development of the group up front is a critical component as the Golden Bucks head into the 2011 season.
Two of the line spots are secure, with the tackles, senior Keith Nutter and junior Jimmy Osgood, anchoring the front. The other guys in the middle are learning in fast-forward mode.
If the line gels, that will enable Cummings and Co. to be more effective. The QB has a good arm, but his feet make him even more dangerous.
“He’s fast and a three-year starter,” Sankey said of the All-LTC pick. “He sees the field very well. He’s a better runner than he is a thrower.”
Behind him are a couple of playmaking senior running backs, including 235-pound all-league fullback Shawn Smith and rugged halfback Chris Powell.
Bucksport, which will operate out of the spread scheme, also hopes to establish balance through the air, with Cummings throwing to the likes of senior wide receiver Jon Geagan and sophmore wideout Josh Gray, who also will contribute as the Bucks’ place-kicker.
Powell is expected to anchor the defense, which is based on a 4-4 scheme, from his linebacker position. He was an All-LTC first-team selection in 2010 and is being recruited by several Division II (scholarship) football programs.
He is joined by sophomore Nic Bishop, a transfer from Hermon, who is expected to play a key role.
Spearheading the defensive line group is senior Damon Klinedinst, who earned All-LTC second-team accolades a year ago.
Sankey jokingly saluted Klinedinst and Powell, saying they could probably bench press a car.
In the secondary, Cummings returns to his safety position after an all-conference junior season. Geagan is another veteran member of that group, which also includes Gray.
Bucksport has solid overall numbers, with 35 players in uniform. That includes a nucleus of 14 seniors.
The team’s overall success will be predicated on how quickly its unproven players adapt to the varsity game.
“It’s going to be a growing process every week and, hopefully, by the end of the year, we’re going to be competitive and we’ll be in the mix of it,” said Sankey, who has been pleased with the collective attitude of the team.
“These kids are fun to be with. They’re coachable.”
Included in the youth movement are three freshmen who are expected to play. That is a dynamic that has been unusual during Sankey’s coaching career.
One of the newcomers who has gained attention is Jack Cyr, who is Bucksport’s long-snapper.
With eight teams headed for the playoffs, the Golden Bucks have plenty of time to get their younger players the game experience they need to get adjusted and achieve improvement. If it can solidify the offensive and defensive lines, Bucksport has enough game-changers to give opponents fits in 2011.
Bucksport opens its season in East Machias against new team Washington Academy Friday at 7 p.m.
BUCKSPORT GOLDEN BUCKS
2010 results: 5-4, lost in Eastern Maine quarterfinals
Head coach, year: Joel Sankey, 17th
Key players: Mike Cummings, QB-FS, Sr.; Shawn Smith, FB-LB, Sr.; Chris Powell, RB-LB, Sr.; Jon Geagan, WR-DB, Sr.; Damon Klinedinst, DT, Sr; Keith Nutter, OL-DL, Sr.; Jimmy Osgood, OL-DL, Jr.; Josh Gray, WR-DB-PK, Soph.
Outlook: Bucksport may not start the season with experience at all positions, but its nucleus is talented. The Bucks have a history of keeping pressure on opposing defenses because of their ability demonstrate offensive balance and potency. With four All-LTC performers back in the fold and its tradition strong, this is a team that could be scary come playoff time.