PORTLAND — Stacen Doucette called it a defense mechanism. If you don’t think of repeating as state champion, the head football coach at Oak Hill High School reasoned, you can’t be as disappointed if it doesn’t happen.

If you try not to think about hoisting the Gold Ball as high as you arms will reach, you won’t stop working toward the goal.

“We just think of our opponent every week. That’s what we have to do to be good,” Doucette said. “We have to work, day in and day out.”

As Doucette spoke, he cradled the Gold Ball in his left arm. When it goes in Oak Hill’s trophy case, next to the one the Raiders won last season, the Raiders will have a matching set. On Saturday afternoon at a cold Fitzpatrick Stadium, Oak Hill won the Class D state championship, beating Maine Central Institute 41-21. The Raiders joined the exclusive club of Maine high school football teams with back-to-back titles.

If you don’t think about winning back-to-back titles then you won’t expect it to come easily, and the hard work will continue. At least, that’s the way Oak Hill senior co-captain Michael Pease saw it. Pease didn’t allow himself to consider another championship until late in the fourth quarter of the championship game, when the Raiders had a 20 point lead with just over one minute to play.

“We go into a season not expecting. We go into a season working hard, and that’s what we need to do every day. Every week, until you get to where you want to be,” said Pease, a 5-foot-7 offensive lineman who looks more like a small wide receiver. Pease might weigh in at 160 pounds if he has a pocket full of change and a heavy key chain. The smaller guys often seem to be on a first name basis with hard work, and Pease is no exception.

“Because we don’t know what’s going to happen when the season starts. You just have to work every week,” Pease said. “The final minutes, that’s when I believed we’d be state champs again.”

Some schools are known as Football Schools. Bonny Eagle. Winslow. Leavitt. Cheverus. Schools that more often than not are playing football well in November. Oak Hill was never one of those. Last season’s state championship was Oak Hill’s first football title since 1982. Twelve months is a much more digestible wait between championships than 31 years.

“We started making plays, then we got more confident,” senior co-captain Alex Mace, a running back, said. “We’ve been in these situations before.”

It can be argued that Oak Hill entered the state championship game as the underdog in each of the last two seasons. Each title came with a win over an undefeated team from the Little Ten Conference. Last season, it was Bucksport. On Saturday, it was MCI, and early on the Huskies looked fully in control. After Oak Hill’s game-opening drive ended at midfield on a missed fake punt, MCI drove down the field easily, scoring to take a 7-0 lead.

The Raiders went three and out, then forced the Huskies to do the same. But a fantastic punt backed Oak Hill to its own 1-yard line. Momentum was the length of the field away.

“We know that we can’t let one touchdown rule what’s happening on the field. Football is a game, we don’t know where the ball is going to bounce. We don’t know if there’s going to be a pick or a fumble. You just have to work for it,” Pease said.

With 99 yards to go, Oak Hill got to work on a season-defining drive. On first down, Mace ran 10 yards. Three plays later, he busted down the right sideline for an 89-yard touchdown run, and although MCI answered with a long touchdown drive to retake the lead, the Raiders had the confidence of a team that knew how the movie was going to end, because they’d seen it before.

“We kind of knew what to expect. Everything just happened, I guess,” Mace, who gained more than 300 all purpose yards and scored three touchdowns, said.

Winning a state championship is hard work. In football, it starts on long, hot August days and doesn’t end until a dark, cold November afternoon. Next season, the Raiders will have a chance at three in a row.

But they’re not thinking about that.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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