DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Foxcroft Academy Ponies shook off an Arctic wind chill with a stout defense and the versatility of senior quarterback Nick Clawson to capture the Class D North LTC football championship with a 34-0 victory over Bucksport at Oakes Field on Friday night.
Top-seeded Foxcroft (8-2) will face the winner of Saturday’s Class D South final between No. 1 Wells and No. 2 Madison-Carrabec for the state championship on Nov. 18 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Game time is expected to be announced Monday.
Second-seeded Bucksport ends its season with a 6-4 record.
Clawson rushed for 180 yards and one touchdown, passed for 99 yards and another score and had two of the Ponies’ four pass interceptions on defense.
“It was cold, and it was physical,” said Clawson.
Senior defensive end R.J. Nelson also came up big for Foxcroft with a blocked punt that led to a touchdown and a 70-yard pass interception for another score.
“Bucksport has a great passing attack and that’s what we prepped for,” said Nelson. “The wind helped us a little for two quarters when they were going into it, and I think our athletes could stay with them down the field so that forced them to throw the ball short.”
Foxcroft capitalized on the stiff wind at its back to build a 20-0 first-quarter lead that it took into halftime.
The Ponies drove 49 yards in six plays to take a 7-0 lead 3:30 into the game, as Clawson threw the ball deep on a third-and-22 play and junior wideout Hyatt Smith leaped over a defender for the 31-yard touchdown reception.
“I didn’t even think about the wind,” said Clawson. “I just knew my man was open and I had to get it to him.”
Levi Stedman added the extra-point kick for Foxcroft.
Bucksport moved the ball into Foxcroft territory with its next possession before being forced to punt, and Foxcroft countered quickly, requiring just three plays to march 75 yards to extend its lead.
First, Clawson took a second-down snap and threw deep again to Smith, this time for a 50-yard gain to the Bucksport 18. Clawson then carried the ball on the next play, getting around the left corner and then knocking down two Bucksport defenders at the 5 before reaching the end zone.
Stedman’s PAT kick made it 14-0 with 2:42 left in the opening period.
Foxcroft scored its third touchdown of the period on special teams, as Nelson blocked a punt and teammate Cody Labbe returned the loose ball 17 yards to give the Ponies a 20-0 lead with 1:04 left to go in the first quarter.
“I’d never been the one to go chase after punts but got the opportunity tonight and I just went as hard as I could and got my hand in there,” said Nelson.
Foxcroft also had the best scoring chance of the second period after Clawson raced 64 yards with a keeper to the Bucksport 12, but that possession ended with Stedman attempting a 35-yard field goal that essentially went sideways into the teeth of the wind.
Bucksport struggled to move the ball with the wind at its back, committing a pair of second-quarter turnovers, one a fumble recovered by Foxcroft and the second an interception by Clawson.
Clawson finished the first half with 87 rushing yards — he lost 36 more as he had to track down two high snaps from center — and 97 yards on three pass completions.
Bucksport’s Chase Carmichael was 6 of 12 passing for 53 yards before intermission.
Bucksport had the wind at its back in the third quarter but couldn’t take advantage, with Foxcroft’s defense picking up two pass interceptions.
The first came midway through the period when Carmichael looked to the left flat only to have Nelson step in front of a receiver, pick the ball off and race 70 yards down the left sideline end into the end zone for a touchdown that gave Foxcroft a 27-0 cushion with 1:22 left in the period.
“That was something we prepped for all game,” said Nelson. “Earlier in the third quarter they were getting us with that hitch to the boundary, and I just read it perfectly, there was no play-action fake and I fronted over and I was in the right position to take it to the house.”
Richard intercepted a Carmichael pass on Bucksport’s next possession, and while the Golden Bucks got the ball back on a Foxcroft fumble on the first play of the fourth , they were unable to move the ball into the wind.
Backup quarterback Matt Spooner scored the game’s final touchdown on a 2-yard run with 2:29 left in the game.