WALES — Few things in football are more costly than mental mistakes.

A missed assignment can lead to a long touchdown or back-breaking turnover and, in turn, quickly change the outcome of a contest. As the game wears on and fatigue sets in these miscues are more likely to occur.

Oak Hill High School — the two-time defending Class D champions — subscribes to this theory and is doing its best to mitigate those effects this season as it looks to defend its title.

“We’ve had some depth but not like this because we’re rotating another five to eight kids (in addition to the starters) on each side of the ball,” Raiders coach Stacen Doucette said. “You’ll see on defense at times we’ll sub three to four guys every other play. On offense we’ll sub two to three guys every other play. It’s because of the hard work they’ve done in the offseason that allows us to do that.”

While Oak Hill (3-0) will slow the game down at time and run some double wing looks, it has played a significant amount of time in the no-huddle offense this fall.

For many teams — particularly in Class D — this is not an option. The biggest hindrance for most is the offensive and defensive lines, which, generally, are full of two-way starters that tire quicker than your average skill-position player.

The Raiders, though, utilize their combination of depth and speed to make the no-huddle work.

“It keeps everybody fresh,” senior guard Austin Goucher said. “We have people that we can start on the offensive line and then once the offense is done, score or not, come out and then we play our defensive drive. We’ve got starters to go that way to give the offensive line a rest and a breather.”

Goucher and fellow seniors center Garrett Gile and guard Brendon Tervo are each three-year starters for the Raiders. Junior right tackle Gavin Chasse is a second-year starter and junior left tackle Adam Mooney, a first-year starter, round out the starters on the offensive line, while senior Andre Klokov rotates in when one of them needs a rest.

Tervo, who also plays outside linebacker, is the only two-way starter of the group. Senior Connor Elwell, junior Peter Flaherty and senior Nick Aripez form the defensive line with sophomore Jake Greenwood rotating in as a substitute.

In all, the Raiders employ just five two-way starters: junior running back/linebacker Levi Buteau, senior wide receiver/defensive back Jonah Martin, senior wide receiver/defensive back Connor Nilsson, junior tight end/defensive end Matt Strout and Tervo.

“We’re hopefully going to wear teams down in the second half and we’ll be fresh when we need to be,” Doucette said. “It’s worked good for us. It gives kids incentive to work hard to get on the field somewhere knowing we use a number of kids.”

What also works well for the Raiders — particularly on the offensive line — is the cohesiveness they have with a number of two- and three-year starters up front.

“We have experience going with each other because we’ve all been on the line with each other,” Tervo said.

“A lot of us have played together since third grade and we’re playing the positions we’ve pretty much played all the way up through,” added Gile.

Physically the Raiders are not quite undersized, yet they lack the same bulk of a team like Dirigo or Maranacok. Oak Hill has found ways around that, though.

“We’re not big, 400-pound lineman,” Goucher said. “Like (assistant) coach (Geoff) Wright says, we can’t just bench press them off of us so we’ve got to leverage, hard-work and drill it through.”

The Raiders have made sure to do the work in the offseason and practice to put them in position to run their offensive and defensive sets. Goucher, Gile and Tervo, among others, each attended the Skowhegan Big Man Battle, a competition that allowed area linemen to show off their skills.

The trio also cited practices where two-minute drills that last for 15 to 20 minutes and extended five-man drills that have helped with conditioning.

So far this season the Raiders have only had once late-game situation where their depth was put to the test. In a 20-14 win over Dirigo (1-2) on Sept. 12, the Raiders — who also own 42-15 and 42-13 wins over Old Orchard Beach and Boothbay, respectively — needed a fumble recovery in the red zone in the final three minutes to hold on for a win.

It is highly unlikely it will be the last time Oak Hill is tested, though. The Raiders still have games against Winthrop/Monmouth (2-1) and Lisbon (2-0) on Oct. 3 and Oct. 10, respectively, and will face every bit of a challenge when the playoffs roll around.

Evan Crawley – 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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