BUCKSPORT, Maine — A young Bucksport High School football team is going to have a difficult time repeating the feat of its elders last year.
Last fall, the Golden Bucks went undefeated through the LTC regular season and playoffs before falling to Yarmouth 41-14 in the Class C state championship game.
The Bucks graduated “17 or 18” seniors, according to coach Joel Sankey, and among those were the entire starting backfield, including quarterback and LTC player of the year Mike Cummings, and two wide receivers.
The other four were running backs Shawn Smith and Chris Powell and wide receivers Jon Geagan and Jake Stewart.
“They were very, very good,” said Sankey. “But we have some good kids behind them. The offensive line is going to be very good. We have a lot of kids from a defense that was very good that are back, so we’ve got some parts.”
Jimmy Osgood, an LTC all-star first-team offensive tackle and a second-teamer on the defensive line, will be a key component of both lines.
“Jimmy’s one of the better linemen in the league,” said Sankey. “He’ll be one [cornerstone of line]. He’s big and strong and quick and he’ll lead our offensive line and he’ll also play defensive tackle.”
The other key will be replacing Cummings, who passed for 791 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for 793 yards and 13 TDs.
“We have a young quarterback by the name of Matt Stewart, who is very bright. He’s going to surprise people,” said Sankey.
Matt Stewart backed up Cummings with 142 yards passing and a TD last year as a freshman.
“He reads secondaries very well,” said Sankey. “ … We’ll do a lot of three-step drops with him, and we’ve got some kids who can catch the ball.”
The team has other aspects he likes as well.
“We’ve got some quickness, little bit of size up front, we’ve got two or three kids that can run the ball,” said Sankey.
Nic Bishop and Josh Gray will be among those runners. They contributed as RBs in 2011, but they were primarily known for their other roles.
“Last year … with Mike Cummings at QB, he did a lot of running. We won’t do that this year,” said Sankey. “We probably won’t use as many spread situations. But it all depends on who we’re playing and what sort of defense they’re playing.”
Bishop will continue to be a key man defensively as he was first-team All-LTC at linebacker. He led the LTC and tied for second best in the state with 133 tackles.
“We have two or three other kids at linebacker, [including] Mitchell Roi,” said Sankey, who added that Mitchell Burgess will be a big contributor at defensive end, with Jimmy Osgood and, likely, KP Hilaire at defensive tackle.
“On defense, we’ll play a 4-4, occasionally drop into a five-man front,” Sankey said. “Basically the same thing we’ve done the last 10, 15 years. [And] try to be solid on special teams.”
Special teams is where Gray made his mark, at placekicker. He kicked one field goal and converted on 24 point-after-touchdown kicks and was named to the LTC second-team offense.
“He’s got a very strong leg,” said Sankey. “He kicked one here, a 45-yarder, in practice.”
Sankey sees Orono, Foxcroft and John Bapst as being the top teams.
“It’s a competitive league, it’s a fun league,” he said.
And he’d like his Bucks to be among the contenders again.
“Keep ’em healthy, improve every week and hopefully we’ll be one of the playoff teams,” he said.
BUCKSPORT GOLDEN BUCKS
2011 results: 11-1, lost in Class C state final
Head coach: Joel Sankey, 19th year
Key players: Jimmy Osgood, OT-DT, Sr., Capt.; Nic Bishop, LB-RB, Jr., Capt.; Mitchell Burgess, DE, Sr., Capt.; Matt Stewart, QB-DB, Soph.; Asher Bowden, DE-RB, Soph.; Jack Cyr, WR-RB-DB, Soph.; Cody Gray, C, Sr.; Josh Gray, K-RB-WR-DB, Jr.; Nate Gray, LB-FB, Jr.; KP Hilaire, OL-DL, Soph.; Mitchell Roi, LB, Jr.; Gabriel Stearns, LB-RB, Soph.
Outlook: As noted in the list of key players, the Bucks will be relying on a lot of sophomores to help carry the team. If Stewart is only half as good as the graduated Mike Cummings, he’ll still contribute nearly 1,000 yards of offense and about 15 TDs. The youth and inexperience will be the key factors to overcome, as well as avoiding injuries. Sankey said that in Class C, it only takes one or two key injuries to devastate a team. If the Golden Bucks can improve steadily and avoid the injury bug, they could be a playoff contender.