WALES — The Oak Hill football team rallied behind the slogan “find a way” from Day 1 this season.

On Saturday, No. 2 Oak Hill found a way past No. 4 Dirigo 16-14 in the Western D Campbell Conference championship. And now the Raiders will find their way to Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland for the Class D state title game Saturday.

“I don’t think it’s real yet,” Oak Hill senior captain Luke Washburn said. “It’s amazing. It’s so unbelievable. I’m speechless.”

Senior quarterback Parker Asselin threw a key 29-yard touchdown pass to Alex Mace and Kyle Flaherty rushed for a game-high 196 yards on 33 carries to power the Raiders (9-2), who are in a state game for the first time since 1984.

“It’s just incredible,” Asselin said. “If you had told me in June that we would be here now, I probably would’ve called you crazy. But we found a way.”

Oak Hill will play Bucksport (11-0) in the Class D title game at a time to be determined.

The Cougars (7-4) and Raiders expected a physical, grind-it-out game, and that’s just what transpired before a large and energetic crowd on a splendid Saturday. The Cougars controlled the clock early, holding the ball for nearly 17 of the 24 minutes in the first half.

Despite the disparity, the teams were tied 6-6 before the Raiders took the lead for good on a 22-yard field goal from junior Adam Merrill midway through the third quarter.

“I wasn’t too nervous,” Merrill said. “I just went out there and knew I had to make it.”

Leading 9-6, the Raiders scored a pivotal touchdown with 8:17 left in the fourth, when Asselin hit Mace on a slant for a 29-yard touchdown. Merrill booted the extra point and Oak Hill had a 16-6 lead.

Asselin completed 4 of 7 passes for 36 yards.

“I knew it was one-on-one coverage,” Mace said. “If I could get a couple steps ahead of (the defender) I’d be free in the end zone. The line gave Parker enough time to throw and we made the play.”

Added Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette: “It was a huge play. We knew we could bend a little bit there.”

The Raiders did bend when Dirigo senior Brett Beauchesne raced up the middle for a 50-yard touchdown with 7:15 left. Tyler Frost completed the two-point conversion pass to Riley Robinson and the Cougars trailed just 16-14.

Oak Hill punted on its ensuing possession, setting up Dirigo for a potential game-winning drive.

“Our defense played a great game and we needed another stop,” Doucette said.

The Raiders got one, stuffing Dirigo on fourth down near midfield with 3:24 to play. Oak Hill then ran out the clock to secure the conference crown.

“Crazy,” said Mace. “There just aren’t any words. It’s just amazing.”

Flaherty opened the scoring when he capped a seven-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 9:32 left in the second quarter. The Cougars responded with a 13-play drive that Heath Hersom finished off with a 2-yard touchdown of his own.

Dirigo committed five penalties in the first half , including three on its first possession that stalled a 15-play drive.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Dirigo coach Dave Crutchfield said. “We backed ourselves up with stupid mistakes.”

Hersom led the Cougars with 91 rushing yards on 17 carries. Oak Hill held Frost, a bruising 225-pound fullback, to just 38 yards on 12 carries.

“The kids understand it’s been awhile since we’ve been here,” Doucette said, “but we are excited about our season. Our kids are excited by our team. We didn’t back into this.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640[email protected]Twitter: @billstewartkj

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