WALES — The Oak Hill High School football team opened Saturday afternoon’s game against Dirigo by showing its appreciation for the military. By the end of the afternoon, the Raiders had to take a cue from the armed forces and show their grit to accomplish their goal.

Oak Hill (2-0) led for all but the first 15 seconds, yet still needed a fumble recovery from Matt Strout and some tough running from Cruz Poirier in the final three minutes to close out a 20-14 win over the Cougars (1-1).

“We told the kids that we’re playing for a greater cause today and to understand that,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “We talk about family and do your job. That’s pretty much the military. We appreciate them every day, we thank them every day for what they do and it’s do your job. That’s the way we expect to do things around here.”

The Raiders were up six points with 4:20 remaining in the fourth quarter when a short punt from Dalton Therrien allowed Dirigo to take over at the Oak Hill 34-yard line. Two straight rushes from quarterback Riley Robinson and a 2-yard plunge from Mike Casey then set up a second-and-8 at the Raiders’ 21-yard line. It appeared only a matter of time until the Cougars got into the end zone with Robinson — who had 24 carries for 103 yards and a pair of touchdowns — running tough.

“We didn’t want to get beat on the outside,” Doucette said. “There’s yards inside but there’s miles outside, so we were going to slow play, bend a little and hope they made a mistake or that we’d make a good play. (It was) a combination of both there at the end.”

On the ensuing play, Robinson rushed to the left to the 10-yard line where he caught up to a down-field blocker. As Robinson tried to maneuver, his blocker’s pad contacted the ball just right to pop it out of his grasp. Moments later Strout and a sea of camouflage jerseys pounced on the loose ball to recover the fumble with 2:40 remaining.

“I’m not going to take that away from anybody just a great effort (and some) misfortune,” Dirigo coach Jim Hersom said. “We just move onto the next play. We’re not going to get down about that. He certainly does a lot of good things for us.”

From there the Raiders ran out the clock behind the running of Poirier, who rushed for gains of 12, 5, 8 and 4 yards on consecutive plays to pick up a pair of first downs and seal the win. Poirier — who got additional work after Levi Buteau went out with an injury — paced Oak Hill with 97 yards on 19 carries, while Therrien had 11 carries for 90 yards. Therrien also completed 5-of-14 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, with Jonah Martin (four catches, 55 yards, one touchdown) his top target.

“I knew I’d get some (touches) but it really only happened when Levi got hurt and taken out of the game that I started going in,” Poirier said. “(It was) just good blocking from the line and ball security.”

When the Raiders and Cougars met during the regular season last fall, Dirigo brought back the opening kickoff for a touchdown but on Saturday it was Oak Hill’s turn to put its opposition in an early deficit. After a false start penalty, Therrien called his own number on an option run to the right and carved his way through the Cougars’ defense for a 74-yard touchdown run 15 seconds into the contest.

Oak Hill took a 14-0 lead into the second quarter thanks to an 8-yard touchdown rush from Buteau as the Raiders out-gained the Cougars 124 to 17 in the opening quarter.

From there, Dirigo began to gain its footing behind the play of Robinson. He completed a 10-yard pass to Gavin Arsenault and rushed seven times for 39 yards — the final one a 5-yard touchdown plunge — as a part of 10-play, 62-yard scoring drive to make it 14-7 with 7:50 remaining in the half.

“We knew that Dirigo is a physical, grind-it-out team and we knew that they would make some adjustments and they did,” Doucette said. “They’re a well-coached team.”

It seemed as if that would remain the score at intermission before an interception by Darryn Bailey off a tipped pass set the Raiders up for their final scoring drive.

Faced with a fourth-and-4 at the Dirigo 41-yard line, Therrien found Martin streaking from right to left 8 yards down field. Martin broke two tackles and rumbled the rest of the way for a touchdown with 1:21 to go until halftime, but the point after kick was blocked.

After the two teams traded punts to start the second half, Dirigo took advantage of great starting field position on its second drive, which began at the Oak Hill 29-yard line. Three straight rushes from Robinson got the Cougars to the 7-yard line, but on the fourth straight run from Robinson, he fumbled just before crossing the goal line.

The Cougars’ signal caller fell on the ball in the end zone, though, to make it a single score game with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter.

Oak Hill managed just 91 yards of offense in the second half but, as it would turn out, had done just enough offensively in the first half to allow its defense to hold on in the second.

 

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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