BUCKFIELD — The mission this fall for the Buckfield boys’ soccer team has been constant.

After losing in the regional final last year, the Bucks aimed high and hoped for a return trip to the Class D South title game. Friday, Buckfield made that dream a reality with a 4-1 semifinal win over Great Portland Christian.

“We saw a lot of good things today,” Buckfield coach Kyle Rines said. “Nobody really got injured. We’re keeping our spirits high and getting ready to play Richmond. I think we stand a good chance at home. It’s going to be a good game.”

The Bucks lost to the Bobcats in the regional final last year, but will host next Wednesday’s championship game. Buckfield has already defeated Richmond twice this season.

In Friday’s semifinal, Buckfield got a goal and an assist each from Jon Randolph and Hunter Wiley, while Ethan Jackson and Sidney Jackson also scored goals. The Bucks scored twice in the first half to stake the lead and set the tone for the rest of the game.

“The definitely motivates us all as a whole team,” Randolph said of the quick lead.

Like Rangeley, which the Bucks beat in the quarterfinals, Buckfield swept the Lions during the regular season, 5-0 and 2-0. 

“This is the first time we’ve played them twice,” Randolph said. “Usually we go for their Homecoming, but they came to us and played us.”

The Bucks knew what to expect, and didn’t let the Lions hang around. Randolph’s goal just 4:19 into the game put the Bucks in the driver’s seat early. He volleyed the ball out of the air to himself on the ground and then beat a defender to create an open shot.

“It was one of those moments where I just kept running,” Randolph said. “I was like ‘Now this is my one chance, I’m not going to screw this up.’ I just took the shot because I knew I could take it.”

GPC only had three shots in the first half and its best chances came off deflections.  Jeremiah Hammond had a rush that led to a shot but it was deflected. Buckfield keeper Jacob Kraske had to make the save. A GPC flip throw by John Konczal created trouble in front but it was cleared.

The Bucks outshot the Lions (9-6-1) 29-6, but keeper Mason Jones was superb in goal, making 17 saves. Still, the Bucks persistent attack produced enough.

“We’re lucky enough to have really strong forwards and good halfbacks that feed the ball and get good shots on goal,” Ethan Jackson said. 

Ethan Jackson made 2-0 with 15:47 left in the half. Wiley had a cross from the right corner. Jackson settled it at the far post and got a shot off.

“Hunter Wiley’s cross was on point,” Jackson said. “I thought it was probably the best cross he had all day. There was a guy in front of me. I thought he was going to jump up, but I guess he wasn’t looking at the ball. I got a lucky touch. I turned and I shot it. It hit the goalie right in the hands. I thought it was going to go over, but it just slid off and went under the crossbar.”

Top-ranked Buckfield (15-1) kept the pressure on in the second half and hit three crossbars. The Bucks finally put another one in with 10:43 remaining. Sidney Jackson finished off a Randolph pass. He put in a shot off the left post. Then with 6:23 remaining, Wiley fired a shot from the outside. Mason was apparently hurt on the play before the shot but didn’t go to the ground. He never saw the shot and never reacted to it. Wiley’s shot landed in an open net.

GPC got its goal with 2:16 left. With a Buckfield player down at the other end of the field, play was allowed to continue. The Bucks couldn’t get possession or a whistle. The Lions got the ball in front where it went in off a Buckfield defender. Hammond was credited with the goal.

“It was kind of what we expected,” Rines said. “GPC played well. We scored one and then there was a time period where it was 50-50. Then from the second half on, we showed that we were the stronger team.”

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