WALES — The Oak Hill High School football team was going to win or lose with Alex Mace or Kyle Flaherty.

That was what Raiders head coach Stacen Doucette said after Oak Hill defeated Maine Central Institute 41-21 for its second straight Class D championship at Fitzpatrick Stadium last November. When the standout duo graduated this past spring, it left a major void to fill — particularly at the running back position.

Yet with only 16 teams still left playing football this season, the Raiders once again find themselves preparing for a regional championship game.

“We’re just running back by committee. Everybody’s got some strengths and special attributes that we used,” said Doucette, whose Raiders will face Lisbon for the Class D South title Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Wales. “Sometimes we go with the hot hand and sometimes we just go with the old reliable.”

When the Raiders needed to pick up key yards late in the game last Saturday in a 13-10 win over Winthrop/Monmouth they went to quarterback Dalton Therrien. The senior has rushed for 740 yards and 11 touchdowns and thrown for 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns in nine game this season to lead Oak Hill in all four categories.

Therrien has hardly been the only one to get the job done this fall, though, as Levi Buteau has been a bright spot in helping reinforce the Raiders’ backfield. Heading into an Aug. 28 preseason contest at Maranacook, Oak Hill was still searching amongst a number of candidates to see who would replace Mace and Flaherty in the backfield.

“We just gave everyone a chance to see how they could run,” Buteau said. “It was just a scrimmage anyways so we wanted to see who could run and where people could run — who could run inside, who could run outside.”

Steven Gilbert, a junior, was a strong candidate after having seen a decent amount of time as a sophomore when Flaherty was out with an injury, but he himself went down early in the exhibition contest. Ultimately, it was Buteau and sophomore Cruz Poirier who emerged out of the early season to seize the bulk of the carries.

On the year Buteau has rushed 85 times for 581 yards and five touchdowns, while Poirier has 95 carries for 454 yards and four touchdowns. Recently Gilbert — who has also developed an expanded role in the passing game since returning from injury — Brian Thorpe and Jonah Martin have earned their touches out of the backfield too, giving the Raiders as much depth at the running back position as they have had all season.

“I just run when I’m told to run and when they’re in, they’re in. We just run as a team,” Buteau said, “I don’t think much of it.”

While Buteau has given the Raiders a lift in the running game, where he has made his biggest mark is at linebacker. Heading into the last Saturday’s game against Winthrop/Monmouth Buteau had recorded 20 tackles — two of which for a loss — two fumble recoveries and an interception.

“He’s improved dramatically. We’ve kind of tailored defenses around him,” Doucette said. “He’s probably undersized. At a bigger school he’d probably be a corner so we just try to put him in situations to be successful.”

What Buteau lacks in size he makes up for with tenacity, according to teammate and fellow linebacker Matthew Strout.

“Levi is one of the most aggressive players we have on the team and he’ll sacrifice his body,” Strout said. “We’ve played together since I was in second grade and he’s always been one of the toughest kids on the team.”

Buteau, Strout and the Raiders’ linebackers will certainly be tested Saturday against the Greyhounds. Between the speed of quarterback Tyler Halls, the power of running back Noah Francis and the receiving ability of tight end Tyrese Joseph, Lisbon is capable of challenging a defense in a number of different ways.

“Lisbon is definitely a good team,” Buteau said. “We’ve just got to know who’s where, who’s in the backfield and if it’s someone slower or someone faster. Our defense needs to know where they need to be set up so we can stop them.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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