BATH — No team in Western Class D has played Richmond High School tougher than Buckfield. 

The Bucks played the undefeated Bobcats within a goal in each of their regular season meetings. Entering Wednesday’s regional final, Buckfield coach Kyle Rines knew his defense couldn’t allow more than a goal if his team wanted to advance to the state final. 

The Bucks did that, holding the Bobcats to a single goal, but that goal came in the 87th minute of a scoreless game and Richmond came away with a 1-0 victory in the regional final at McMann Field.

It was the first time all season the Bobcats had been held to fewer than two goals in a game. The Bobcats will play the winner of the Eastern regional final between Bangor Christian and Ashland, who play today. 

“We have so much experience on the defensive end,” Rines said. “That’s our strong point. We knew going in we really couldn’t allow more than one goal. Our goal, obviously, was to allow none. But we play tough. My hat’s off to Richmond, they battled well. We just gave up one too many corners.” 

Brendan Emmons sent Richmond to the state title game with a header off the Bobcats’ fourth corner of the half with 2:22 remaining. Emmons’ brother, Cameron, set up the game-winning goal, serving a ball into the box that found Brendan’s head amidst a bevy of Buckfield defensemen. Bucks goalkeeper Calvin Downey tried to punch the ball out of trouble, but the ball hit off Brendan Emmons and into the bottom right corner of the net. 

“They’re a tough team,” Richmond coach Peter Gardner said of Buckfield. “They really are a tough team. They played some really good defense on us and at times we should have pulled the trigger a little bit earlier and we didn’t do that. They really pushed hard and they worked hard.” 

Prior to Brendan Emmons’ goal was 87 minutes worth of near misses for the Bobcats (17-0). Richmond fired 20 shots on target, forcing Downey to make a few timely saves. Many of Richmond’s shots came from outside the box, but many of them were near inches from finding the net. 

“They were just marking us very well and they were applying pressure,” Brendan Emmons said. “Every time we got the ball there was two guys on you.”  

Downey came up with a pair of big saves in the 76th and 79th minutes, respectively, to keep the Bobcats off the board. He punched away a shot from Cameron Emmons headed just under the crossbar from 15 yards out and got just enough on Tyler Souey’s shot to have it hit off the bottom of the crossbar. 

Despite all the missed opportunities, Gardner said his team remained calm. 

“If you’re working hard, wins will take care of themselves, Gardner said. “You can’t take anything away from either side, they both played tough.” 

Gardner is in his first season with the Bobcats, coming out of retirement following a lengthy stint as the head boys’ soccer coach at Brunswick. 

Downey finished with 15 saves. 

The Bobcats entered Wednesday’s contest averaging more than five goals per game. They scored five goals combined in three games against Buckfield (13-4). Still, it’s a bittersweet feeling for the Bucks.

“It’s heartbreaking for us, but we’ll be back,” Rines said. “We’re losing a lot, but our goal is to be back. I hope we play Richmond as tough as any team this year.”

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