BUCKSPORT, Maine — Before Friday night’s LTC Class C semifinal playoff game at Carmichael Field had even started, an unidentified Bucksport High football player unwittingly provided the theme for the game in the pregame huddle.
“Remember guys,” he exhorted his teammates. “They’re silver, but we’re gold.”
And that’s pretty much the way it turned out as the No. 4 Calais-Woodland Silverados gave a strong account of themselves despite missing two key starters, but they weren’t able to stay with the much deeper and effective Bucksport Golden Bucks.
Nate Warren rushed for 292 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries to help keep the top-seeded Bucks unbeaten with a 43-12 victory over the Silverados. The Bucks will host next weekend’s regional final against the winner of today’s semifinal between Foxcroft Academy and John Bapst.
Bucksport’s senior back also eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark for the season as his game total gives him 2,230 in 10 games.
“They have the best running back in the state,” said head coach Ian Pratt, whose Silverados finish their first varsity season 6-4. “Yes, we had turnovers, but that’s not why we lost. The reason is they played better than we did.”
And not just offensively. The Bucks forced three turnovers and turned all three of them into touchdowns for a total of 19 points.
Middle linebacker Robbie Winters spearheaded the defensive effort with two interceptions — his first two of the season.
“The only one I had before tonight was in the preseason,” Winters said with a sheepish grin. “I dropped my last chance for one before tonight.”
His first came with 11:42 left in the game as he tipped a low pass over the middle up in the air and then grabbed it in both hands before returning it 10 yards to the Calais-Woodland 32-yard line. The second came with 3:09 left to both end a solid Silverados’ drive at the B-22 and set up a 78-yard TD run by Warren.
“They were getting us on that short pass out to the side, so coach moved me to outside backer and I just looked for the tight end to release. Whenever he did, I stayed on him,” Winters explained.
As important as the turnovers were to icing the victory, both coaches pointed to the Silverados’ first drive of the game as one of, if not the key point of the game. C-W drove from its own 46 to the B-5 in 10 plays, but fell short of the end zone by three yards as Robbie McGuire stopped bruising C-W fullback Blake Ford on fourth-and-goal with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
“Yeah, that was huge,” said Bucks coach Joel Sankey. “That’s a tough offense to stop because it’s so difficult to see the ball, and they’re dangerous because if you give them a lead early, they can sit on that offense and make it very difficult for you to come back.”
The Bucks then drove 97 yards in 11 plays to score the first points of the game on a 33-yard run by Warren off right tackle and a two-point conversion rush by quarterback Kyle McGeechan.
“We had the opportunity to take the lead early and came up just short, plus we had difficulty stopping them all night,” said Pratt. “They outplayed us on the lines and no matter what we tried to counter with, they beat us.”
The Silverados’ first score came with 6:55 left in the first half as Ford scored on a 13-yard run off left tackle to make it 16-6 Bucks, but that was as close as they’d get for the rest of the game.
A fumbled C-W handoff on the second play from scrimmage in the opening minutes of the second half was recovered by Bucksport’s Isaac Redman on the C-W 23 and Warren took it in two plays later.
Calais-Woodland did score two minutes later as Greg Jackson caught a 36-yard TD pass from Eric Henry to make it 22-12, but the Silverados again came up empty on the point-after play.
“When they did score, we limited their extra points,” Sankey said. “We went for two on purpose because we knew they would and we wanted to create a scoring differential where they’d have to score two touchdowns or more to beat us.”
Warren scored on a 12-yard run to close out the third quarter and the rout was on.
Ford finished with a tough 118-yard rushing effort on 25 carries for the undermanned Silverados, who were missing defensive MVP and tailback Cameron Shorey, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament last week, and middle linebacker Kevin Ross.
“When you’ve only got 23 guys on the team, it’s difficult to have those kinds of injuries because you really don’t have the backups,” Pratt said. “I’m proud of the job our guys did. They definitely exceeded my expectations. I don’t think anyone expected a first-year team to make it all the way to the semifinals.”