PITTSFIELD, Maine — Fans were treated to a brief fireworks show just before the opening kickoff of Friday night’s Little Ten Conference football showdown between Maine Central Institute and Bucksport.
It was just a sampling of things to come.
Jack Cyr and Josh Gray combined to score six touchdowns on plays ranging from 45 to 97 yards as Bucksport remained undefeated with a wild 42-35 victory. The Bucks are 7-0 and MCI is 6-1.
Just how wild was this? Bucksport scored 35 points in the first half alone — while accumulating just two first downs.
And even that early offensive explosion wasn’t enough to put this game away by itself, as previously unbeaten MCI — a team that went winless a year ago — pulled within a single touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
This figured to be the biggest regular-season game in Pittsfield since the 2000 season, when the Huskies won their last LTC/Eastern Maine Class C championship.
And both teams were armed with plenty of big plays from the outset.
First Bucksport’s Jack Cyr took the opening kickoff 89 yards down the right sideline to give the Bucks a 7-0 lead just 14 seconds into the contest.
Jonathan Santiago returned the subsequent kickoff 49 yards to midfield, and on the next play MCI’s Austin Tolman made a one-handed catch of a Greg Vigue pass behind the Bucksport defense for a 50-yard scoring play that tied the game with just 28 seconds elapsed in the period.
Two plays after getting the ball back, Bucksport gained a 14-7 lead as Gray took a pitch from quarterback Matthew Stewart, cut up the middle and raced 61 yards to the end zone for the game’s third TD in 91 seconds.
Santiago responded with a 71-yard kickoff return, with only a saving tackle by Gray — the Bucksport kicker — preventing yet another score.
It was a momentary delay.
MCI required just four plays to traverse the remaining 19 yards, with Alex Bertrand scoring from the 1 to tie the game at 14-14 with still 9:35 to play in the first.
The game soon settled down somewhat, at least to the extent that the scoreboard operator had a chance to rest, though the remainder of the period included three lost fumbles and a blocked punt.
But Bucksport wasn’t done scoring, as Gray caught an MCI punt on the run at the Huskies’ 45, broke two tackles in the middle of the field and raced to the end zone to give the Golden Bucks the lead for good, up 21-14 with 1:53 left.
And while Bucksport’s defense stiffened and held Santiago — the LTC’s leading rusher beginning the night with 1,053 yards — the MCI defense had no answer for Cyr.
The Bucksport junior added two more rushing touchdowns before intermission on sprints of 64 and 97 yards as the Golden Bucks built their advantage to 35-14.
But MCI wasn’t without yet another response, this time a 62-yard drive during the final two minutes of the half.
A 30-yard pass from Vigue to Tolman gave the Huskies first-and-goal at the Bucksport 6, and on the next play tight end Mitchell Hallee caught a pass in the left front of the end zone after it had been deflected by Gray to pull MCI within 35-21 with 35.1 seconds left in the second period.
Cyr had 184 rushing yards on 10 carries at halftime to go with his 89-yard kickoff return, while the Bucksport defense limited Santiago to just 2 net rushing yards on nine first-half carries.
An interception by Lucas Ashmore gave Bucksport possession inside the MCI 20 early in the third quarter, but the MCI defense held on downs and Santiago got loose up the middle for an 89-yard touchdown run that drew the Huskies within 35-28 2:15 into the second half.
But that momentum lasted all of 45 seconds of game time, as Gray caught a short pass from Stewart on the second play after the ensuing kickoff and raced 78 yards for his third touchdown, extending the Bucksport lead to 42-28.
That lead stood at 14 points until Vigue and Tolman hooked up through the air twice for 60 yards on consecutive plays, the second catch a 28-yard completion over a defender in the end zone to pull MCI within 42-35 with 8:16 left in the game.
The Huskies then got the ball back at its 30 with 3:51 left and moved into Bucksport territory on an 18-yard pass from Vigue to Tanner Littlefield, then Vigue hit Hallee for 25 yards on a fourth-and-20 play to the Bucksport 33.
But there the drive ended, with a third-down sack of Vigue by Bucksport’s KP Hilaire the key defensive play.