RICHMOND — Just in case. That’s why Buckfield’s Sidney Jackson kept coming and didn’t give up on the ball. Just in case.

“What kept me going was because I wanted it,” Jackson said. “I always do it. It’s something you need to do, crash on net.”

So even though it looked as though Richmond keeper Zach Small had smothered a ball headed back to him by a Bobcat defender, Jackson was there.

Sure enough, Small couldn’t completely secure the ball. When it got loose, Jackson pounced on it and put it into an empty net. 

It was the only goal in a battle of the two top teams in Class D South. It gave the Bucks a 1-0 win over the Bobcats.

“You always have to attack that,” Jackson said. “In all my years of playing soccer, there’s always those fumbles where you think, ‘I could have had that. I could have helped my team.’ You always have to be relentless to the ball and going for it and think maybe.”

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The win Tuesday completes a regular-season sweep of the defending state champions, the team the Bucks (13-1) lost to in the Western D final last fall. It also secures the top seed in Class D South, likely the first No. 1 seeding for Buckfield since 1991 when the Bucks went 13-1.

“Going into it, it was just a game for me,” Buckfield coach Kyle Rines said. “I always say to the guys that it’s one of 14 games we have to play. To put yourself in position for the playoffs, that’s when it matters. We’ll play on the 28th and go from there.”

Richmond ends the season as the second seed at 9-4.

“That’s kind of the game,” Richmond coach Peter Gardner of the one-goal decision said. “They did a nice job defensively, covering it up. There were a few balls in there that probably could have been kicked better than they were kicked. Other than that, that was the game. Their goal was a hustle goal.”

The game-winner came with just 7:49 left. Two Richmond defenders played the ball backwards in the direction of Small. The first skipped it back and the other put a head on it and directed it toward the goal.

“The goal was a fluke,” Gardner said. “It’s just a double skip. It probably shouldn’t have been headed the second time. (Jackson) just kept coming. It was a hustle goal. You don’t give up. That’s what you teach them.”

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Though many an attacking player might have peeled off when it appeared Small might secure the ball, Jackson wasn’t giving up on it.

“It was on the ground,” Jackson said. “He had it in his hands. He was bobbling it and fumbling it. It was on the ground. I just really took care of it. It was really nothing fancy. I was just doing my job.”

Both teams had had chances early in the first half. Richmond put some good pressure on early, but the Bucks did a nice job blocking shots and breaking up passes in front of goalkeeper Jacob Kraske. 

“In the first half, we really should have had a couple,” Gardner said. “I thought we were really moving the ball well. Then we went into a little bit of a funk and got back too far and gave them some opportunities.”

Jon Randolph set up Noah Wiley for a shot that was saved by Small, and Randolph had a high shot that was saved.

In the second half, Richmond controlled most of the play and outshot the Bucks 8-2, but the Buckfield defense held strong. Bryan Chabe made a number of nice plays on defense and Simon Burch cleared out a couple of dangerous shots to preserve the lead.

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“It was tough,” Jackson said. “They probably had possession the majority of the time, but we fought and give it 100 percent. We fought for it and we took it.”

Curtis Anderson had a low shot that was saved by Kraske early in the half. Nate Vintinner had a shot that went over the net, and Logan Anair put a free kick over the net. The Bobcats had a number of bids go wide or high as Buckfield stuffed the box with 10 defenders in front of Kraske for much of the second half. The Bucks did a good job breaking up plays and clearing the ball out.

“Going into the year, we knew our offense was going to be really good, but our defense has been very impressive,” Rines said. “And we were missing our best defender today (Zack Grover). He’s missed the last three games. I’m really impressed how well we all adjusted. Our goalkeeper did an amazing job. Our defense really communicated. They all did a really good job.”

The Bucks will now host all their regional playoff games at home. If a rematch with Richmond is in the cards, the Bobcats will have to travel. Buckfield played the regional final at Richmond last year.

“Now we’ll just have to go over there and play,” Gardner said of a possible rematch. “Last year, we were the top seed, but we still had to win all the games.”

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