Orono’s Will Francis caught seven touchdowns as the Red Riots took down Bucksport 51-46 in Bucksport on Friday night.
In a back-and-forth battle for a spot in the eight-player small school North semifinals, Orono leaned on the connection of quarterback Jack Brewer and Will Francis.
Brewer and Francis connected for seven catches, 239 yards and seven touchdowns as the Red Riots hung on to defeat Bucksport 51-46.
“He just throws the ball up for me and I go get it, it’s so easy. They can’t stop us,” Francis said.
Francis was right.
Every time Brewer went to Francis it resulted in a touchdown.
Francis had touchdowns of 29, 69, 35, 41, 23, 39 and 6 yards.
With 42.9 seconds left in the first half, Bucksport’s Kamryn Webber scored a 1-yard touchdown up the middle. The two-point conversion was no good but the touchdown gave the Golden Bucks a 22-16 lead right before halftime.
Pivotal play: It turned out to be too much time on the clock for Orono (5-3), who went right down the field and finished the drive with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Francis in double coverage in the right corner of the end zone with 15 seconds left in the half.
The touchdown gave Orono a 23-22 lead after the extra point.
“It’s always a game of momentum and that was a big momentum swing,” Orono coach Bob Sinclair said. “I am proud of our kids, they’ve been in big games all year. Being 0-9 last year, our kids are relishing this.”
Webber scored a 61-yard touchdown to start the second half for Bucksport (4-4), taking back the lead 30-23.
Webber ran for 174 yards and four scores for the Golden Bucks.
The two teams continued to go back and forth.
Francis scored on a 39-yard touchdown pass caught over the middle that Francis took to the outside and found the end zone. With 9:35 left in the game, the score put Orono ahead 45-38.
Orono forced Bucksport into a punt and a few plays later, Francis scored his seventh touchdown, a 6-yard score in the back of the end zone that Francis pulled in with one hand. The score put the Red Riots ahead 51-38 with 3:30 left.
Big takeaway: “The long ball hurt us,” Bucksport coach Joel Sankey said. “We knew they were explosive. We tried to keep the ball out of their hands as much as we could, but they were tough. They really improved since the last time we played them.”
Bucksport never quit, and quarterback Ayden Maguire led the team down the field and scored on a quarterback draw to pull the Golden Bucks within 51-45 with 2:41 left in the game.
The onside kick attempt by Bucksport was unsuccessful, but Orono punted the ball with 2:12 left.
A couple plays into Bucksport’s final drive, Orono’s Pierce Walston intercepted a pass over the middle to seal the win.
“Obviously it feels very good,” Sinclair said. “Anytime you come to Bucksport and beat them on their home turf it’s very special but when it’s a playoff game it’s even more special. That’s a great football team over there but I’ll give my kids credit they never quit.”
Up next: Orono will head to Dexter (7-0) to face the defending state champions in the eight-player small school North semifinal next week.