PORTLAND — Oak Hill waited 32 years for its second state championship in football.

Its third Gold Ball came much sooner.

Senior Alex Mace totaled 342 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns as the Raiders (11-1) defeated Maine Central Institute 41-21 to repeat as Class D champs Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Mace’s 57-yard punt return for a touchdown with 4:55 remaining in the third quarter proved to be a back-breaking play for MCI, as it allowed the Raiders to open up a lead of at least two scores for the remainder of the contest.

“I knew it was my last game, I just wanted to make the best of it,” Mace said. “I didn’t want to go down easy.

“I’m happy. I gave it 110 percent. I knew everyone else did so this is something I’ll never forget.”

Added senior guard Mike Pease: “I want to say it’s the best feeling in the world. We still have the rest of our lives, but right now this is the best feeling we can get. In high school, this is the best feeling.”

Ultimately for the Huskies (10-1) it was combination of too much Mace and too many injuries that ended MCI’s bid for a perfect season.

Star running backs Jonathan Santiago and Eric Hathaway left with injuries early in the second quarter, while running back/linebacker Alex Bertrand was in and out of the lineup all game with an apparent lower leg injury. Santiago briefly returned in the third quarter, but was not nearly as effective as he was earlier and departed for good soon after.

“Once we lost some of those guys and we had other guys stepping in certainly in a game like this it takes its toll,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said. “As I’ve said before, I have confidence in all of our guys.

“… We didn’t have an answer for (Mace). We’ve got to get to the film and see what that was all about. They found something they liked and they hit it and he’s a heck of a player. I’ve been saying it all week, those are the two best players (Mace and Kyle Flaherty) in Western Maine Class D. They showed it tonight.”

Even in the face of the numerous key injuries, senior wide receiver Austin Tolman — who suffered an injury himself towards the end of the contest — did his best to keep the Huskies in the game. Tolman had three touchdown catches for MCI and finished with eight grabs for 61 yards.

Oak Hill ultimately built a sizable margin in the second half, but out of the gate the Raiders looked anything but comfortable in Portland.

Before the Raiders even ran a play coach Stacen Doucette was forced to burn a timeout with his team struggling to get in the proper alignment and committed a false start penalty immediately after.

The drive would end with a turnover on downs on a failed fake punt at around midfield, and the Huskies responded with a heavy dose of Santiago and Bertrand.

The duo did the bulk of the heavy lifting, but it was Tolman who capped off MCI’s first possession with a 9-yard catch from quarterback Greg Vigue to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead with 6:22 remaining in the first quarter.

Each time MCI looked to build momentum Mace was there though.

“They came out in a (5-3 defense) and I think that opened up Alex a lot,” Kyle Flaherty, who was stymied for just four yard rushing in the first half, said. “He had an awesome game and our line opened up stuff outside. I think that’s how we won.”

Mace got Oak Hill on the board with an 81-yard touchdown run with 1:54 remaining in the first half and from that point forward the Raiders’ early-game jitters were gone.

“I think our team was just a little bit nervous,” Oak Hill quarterback Dalton Therrien said of his team’s start. “After that, once we realized what we had to do and how to do it the team came together.”

Oak Hill held a 14-13 lead at halftime, but it was clear momentum was shifting towards the boys in blue and white.

Levi Buteau picked off Vigue on MCI’s first possession out of intermission, and seven plays later Therrien connected with Mace on a 37-yard touchdown pass to give the Raiders their largest lead to that point at 21-13.

From there, however, sloppy play marred the third quarter.

MCI went three-and-out, yet three plays later Oak Hill gave the ball back on Mace’s first fumble of the year. One play later Eli Bussell returned the favor, but on the very next play Jonah Martin fumbled just short of the goal line to give the Huskies the ball back at the 20-yard line after it trickled out of the end zone for a touchback.

Once again though, it was a big play from Mace that settled the Raiders.

MCI was forced to punt after three plays on its next possession and Mace stood back at around the Oak hill 45-yard line in anticipation of the boot.

The kick drove him back a few yards where he managed to shed an MCI tackler. Moments later he split another pair of Huskies, broke away from the crowd towards the left sideline and held off Vigue as he approached the end zone to tip toe in for the touchdown.

The play set up the end for MCI, as Flaherty — who finished with 91 yards on 24 carries — scored his only touchdown of the contest with 10:15 to play to give Oak Hill a commanding 21-point lead.

“We were going to win or lose with Alex and Kyle,” Doucette said. “That was what was going to happen. We were going to go with our great players and that was the goal. Alex outside, Kyle inside.”

Evan Crawley – 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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