BUCKSPORT — Two unbeaten teams that had combined to score 220 points through the first two weeks of the LTC football season met Friday night fully expecting to test each other’s defensive resolve.
And it was the Bucksport Golden Bucks who passed that first major challenge, combining 424 yards of total offense with a punishing defense to subdue Orono 35-14 at Carmichael Field.
“This was a big test,” said Bucksport senior Shawn Smith, who rushed for 110 yards, scored two touchdowns, recovered a fumble and tipped an Orono punt. “We definitely passed. It was a great team effort.”
Quarterback Mike Cummings led the way offensively for coach Joel Sankey’s club, rushing for 154 yards and two touchdowns while passing for 120 yards and two more scores.
The senior was at his best during the second quarter, accounting for 174 yards of total offense in that period alone including touchdown runs of 7 and 64 yards and a 52-yard scoring pass to Josh Gray to help Bucksport build a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Golden Bucks’ defense, while yielding 304 total yards to an Orono offense that had scored 109 points in its first two outings, limited the Red Riots to a pair of Dominic Mowrer touchdowns, one midway through the third quarter and the second on a 23-yard run with 2:34 left in the game.
Mowrer, who led the LTC in rushing with 284 yards through two weeks of play, finished the night with 152 yards on 23 carries.
“Their backfield is really quick, they’ve got a lot of good athletes,” said Bucksport senior Jordan Fogg. “But our line had a lot of penetration, the linebackers made a lot of tackles and when they made it to the outside our secondary was making tackles out there.”
Bucksport began the game sluggish on offense, committing three fumbles in the first quarter. But Orono couldn’t capitalize, as the Golden Bucks recovered all three drops.
“I think we were just real nervous at the beginning and it took some time to get settled in,” said Cummings, whose team has now outscored its opposition 146-25 in building a 3-0 record. “But once we got settled in we were breaking plays big and picking each other up when we were down.”
Smith recovered a Mowrer fumble midway through the first quarter to set up Bucksport’s first score, a 7-yard run around the right corner by Cummings 27 seconds into the second quarter.
A 3-yard gain by Chris Powell on a short center snap out of punt formation on fourth-and-3 from the Orono 43 kept the drive alive, and Cummings later passed to Jake Stewart for a 19-yard gain inside the Red Riots’ 20.
Smith got his hand on an Orono punt on the Red Riots’ next possession, giving Bucksport good field possession at its 36.
Cummings scored on the next play, racing to the left sideline and capitalizing on an effective block by sophomore wideout Josh Gray to spring free for a 64-yard touchdown run with 8:03 left in the half.
Cummings passed to Smith for the two-point conversion to make it 14-0.
“It was meant to be a pass play,” said Cummings, “but they got penetration on the outside so I stepped to the middle and saw an opening on the left side and I just took it and got around to the outside and kept going.”
Fogg came up big defensively on Orono’s next possession, stopping Mowrer for a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-4 to stall a Red Riots’ drive at the Bucksport 20.
Cummings rushed for 19 yards on the next play, and after a 10-yard gain by Smith to the 48, Cummings found Gray open over the middle for a 52-yard touchdown strike to extend the Bucksport lead to 21-0 with 3:35 left in the period.
Orono marched 52 yards in eight plays with its second possession of the second half. A 21-yard pass from Bryce Menhert to Tyler Eddy moved the Red Riots into scoring position, and Mowrer cut back to his left one play later for the final 11 yards to the end zone. Mowrer’s two-point rush drew coach Bob Sinclair’s club within 21-8 with 5:17 left in the period.
Bucksport immediately countered, with Gray’s 32-yard kickoff return and a 15-yard facemask penalty against Orono — one of seven flags thrown against the Red Riots — setting up a a 3-yard touchdown pass from Cummings to Smith in the final minute of the third quarter. Cummings passed to Powell for the two extra points to make it 29-8.
“The coaches at halftime gave us a pump-up speech, saying if they came out and scored that they would have a chance to come back in the game,” said Fogg. “But we came back and scored another one and got right back into it.”
Smith added Bucksport’s final points on a 5-yard run with 7:02 left in the game.