BUCKSPORT, Maine — Fans expected a close game when the Foxcroft Academy football team traveled to windblown Carmichael Field on Friday night for a midseason battle of the unbeatens against Bucksport.
They got it.
Quarterback Matt Spooner and halfback Michaleb Niles each rushed for more than 100 yards and senior defensive tackle Caleb Ladd came up with two big quarterback sacks late in the fourth quarter as Foxcroft held on for a 21-20 victory over the host Golden Bucks.
The defending LTC champion Ponies are now 4-0 at the midpoint of the regular season while Bucksport is 3-1.
Spooner, a senior who was named LTC player of the week last week after passing for 170 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln, was equally impressive as a rusher this week with a game-high 141 yards on 17 carries.
Niles added 101 yards on 12 attempts as coach Danny White’s club amassed 280 of its 308 total yards on the ground.
Hyatt Smith added three pass receptions for 28 yards, a 7-yard touchdown that gave Foxcroft a 21-12 lead with 6:49 left in the game, a pass interception, and a key 50-yard punt late in the game.
That punt from the Foxcroft end zone gave Bucksport possession at its 41-yard line trailing by a point with 2:46 to play, but after a first-down pass incompletion Ladd sacked Bucksport quarterback Brady Findlay on back-to-back plays for losses of 8 and 4 yards.
Smith then intercepted a desperation fourth-down pass by halfback Carter Tolmasoff and returned it 51 yards before Foxcroft ran out the clock.
Tolmasoff, who battled cramps for much of the second half, had a team-high 133 yards on 20 rushes for Bucksport, while backfield mate Lucas Wardwell added 69 yards on 13 carries with one rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown.
Foxcroft and Bucksport combined for 397 total yards in a first half that ended with the visiting Ponies holding a 14-6 lead.
Bucksport took a 6-0 lead with 47 seconds left in the opening period on a 60-yard sprint by Tolmasoff.
The run capped off a 95-yard drive by the Golden Bucks after the defense stopped Foxcroft in the red zone.
Tolmasoff took a handoff from Findlay and battled through Foxcroft’s interior defense before cutting left to get to the sideline for a sprint to the end zone.
Foxcroft scored a pair of second-quarter touchdowns with the wind at the offense’s back.
The Ponies used a four-wide-receiver set for much of the night, creating space in the middle of the field for Spooner and Niles to do their rushing work.
Spooner scored on a 35-yard run on the Ponies’ second play of the second quarter, with Luke Stedman kicking the extra point to give Foxcroft a 7-6 lead.
That run ended a four-play, 75-yard drive that began with back-to-back 20-yard gains by Spooner and Niles.
Foxcroft extended its lead on its next possession, driving 52 yards in 10 plays with sophomore Logan Martin scoring from 1 yard out to make it 14-6 with 5:54 left before halftime.
Bucksport marched 54 yards in eight plays with its first possession after intermission, with Wardwell scoring from the 2 to pull the Golden Bucks within 14-12.
Foxcroft recovered a fumble by Wardwell near midfield to set up its final score of the night, with Smith running a sweep around right end for the final 7 yards of a 52-yard possession to give the Ponies a 21-12 cushion with 6:49 left in the game.
Bucksport scored the only touchdown of the night into the wind 1:45 later after a long kickoff return by Logan Stanley.
Findlay passed the final 10 yards to Wardwell, who bounced off a defender, spun around and landed on the left pylon with 5:04 remaining.
Findlay then threw to Tolmasoff for the two-point conversion to make it a one-point game.