Whether the scene is the Verso paper mill in Bucksport or Erv’s Barber Shop in downtown Orono, the topic of discussion this week has veered away from the typical fare of economic tough times, deer hunting season or the approach of winter.
The topic of choice in both communities is high school football — specifically Saturday’s LTC Class C championship game between Orono and Bucksport.
“It’s the talk of the town,” said Bucksport coach Joel Sankey, whose undefeated and top-ranked Golden Bucks (10-0) will host the second-ranked Red Riots (9-1) in a 1 p.m. start at Carmichael Field.
Both programs have rich football histories, but both also are seeking to end title droughts of varying degrees.
Bucksport is seeking its first Eastern Maine title since winning the 2004 state championship, and is playing in its first LTC final since 2008.
Orono last played in the LTC championship game in 1996, and last won a state title as a Class B program in 1994.
“It’s nice to be part of this and have people talking about Orono football again,” said Orono coach Bob Sinclair. “We’re not satisfied, we’re still hungry, but we’re pretty proud of our accomplishments to this point.”
These teams combined for more than 700 yards of total offense when whey first faced off during Week 3 of the regular season, when Bucksport emerged with a 35-14 victory on its home field.
Senior quarterback Mike Cummings and senior running back Shawn Smith were the individual stars for the Golden Bucks that Friday night. Cummings rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 120 yards and two more scores while Smith rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns to go with a fumble recovery on defense and a tipped punt on special teams.
Bucksport outgained Orono 424-304 in total yardage, but the Red Riots were somewhat shorthanded as sophomore fullback Cameron Mowrer was sidelined by injury and tailback Norton Revell also went down with an injury early in the contest.
Orono’s Dominic Mowrer, the LTC’s leading rusher the last two seasons, did have 152 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries against Bucksport.
“Bucksport kids are tough, hard-nosed kids,” said Sinclair. “The night we played them they got the best of us, and we will never make excuses. We played as well as we could play given the situation we were in at the time.”
Both teams have remained strong since that earlier meeting, though both were tested during their semifinal games last weekend. Bucksport topped No. 5 Foxcroft Academy 21-12 while Orono defeated No. 3 John Bapst of Bangor 25-14.
One thing is fairly certain. There should be few secrets when these teams meet again with an LTC title and a berth in the Nov. 19 state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland against either Yarmouth or Traip Academy of Kittery on the line.
“I think we match up well with them,” said Sankey. “Our seniors have played against these kids since their sophomore year. They’ve seen their offense a lot, so they’re prepared that way.
“I think it will come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes, and to the team that doesn’t turn it over. It should be a good game.”