WALES — The Oak Hill High School football team is headed back to the Class D championship — barely.

The Raiders nearly let a 21-0 halftime advantage slip away, but a botched extra point kick and tough running from quarterback Dalton Therrien in the final six minutes allowed Oak Hill to hang on for a 21-20 win on a cold, windy Saturday afternoon. The Raiders will face Maine Central Institute on Friday at 7 p.m. for the Class D title at the University of Maine.

The game is a rematch of last season’s state final, which Oak Hill won 41-21. The Raiders enter the contest having won 20 straight — their last loss came Sept. 13, 2014 to Dirigo.

“Making it back to states is everything. A lot of people don’t get to do that once in their whole career,” said Therrien, who rushed for three touchdowns and 130 yards on 25 carries. “The team I’m on is blessed enough to go three times so I don’t think the guys take that for granted. They know what they have to do, we know what we want and we’re going to go get it.”

Trailing 21-0 at halftime, the Greyhounds stormed back in the second half and, with 5:18 remaining in the fourth quarter, threatened to tie the game after a 19-yard touchdown run from Noah Francis.

On the ensuing extra point attempt, however, a miscommunication forced holder and starting quarterback Tyler Halls to try to make a play. The junior left-hander rolled to the left and looked for someone to throw to, but his attempt was batted down just short of the goal line to keep Oak Hill in front by a single point.

From there, the Raiders managed to run out the clock behind Therrien, who carried the ball nine straight times and picked up three first downs in the process.

“I told the kids at halftime that we’ve been in this situation before and they’re going to make a run,” Oak Hill head coach Stacen Doucette said. “…They got back in the game and found a couple things offensively that we had a hard time with.

“I told the kids somebody was going to make a big play and we’re going to find a way. The big play was the extra point.”

After the way the Raiders played in the opening half, a return trip to the Class D championship seemed inevitable.

Both teams opened the game with a pair of empty possessions, but then the Raiders went to work with a drive beginning at their own 40-yard line. The possession nearly stalled at the Lisbon 26-yard line, but Therrien found Connor Nilsson for a diving 21-yard catch on fourth-and-8. Two plays later Therrien ran it in himself for a 7-0 lead with 8:28 remaining in the second quarter after Steven Gilbert’s extra point kick.

The ensuing kickoff squirted through Shawn Grover’s legs, ultimately pinning the Greyhounds at their own 4-yard line. On the very next play, Halls was pressured by Austin Goucher and Connor Elwell in his own end zone and threw the ball up as he was hit, ultimately getting intercepted by Darryn Bailey. Therrien then found himself in the end zone again four plays later on an 8-yard run to make it 14-0.

After a Lisbon three-and-out, Therrien and the Raiders orchestrated an 11-play, 52-yard scoring drive that the senior quarterback capped off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge to make it 21-0 at the break. Offensively the Greyhounds struggled to get anything going in the opening half and were limited to just 52 yards of offense.

“We felt like they were running the middle often so we were sending some guys to the middle and the inside to stop fullback Noah Francis,” Elwell said. “He’s big but we just came out on top.”

Despite the big advantage at intermission, the Raiders still felt that the Greyhounds would have a final push left in them.

“We had a game just like this against them last year,” said Elwell, referring to a 7-6 win over Lisbon in the 2014 Class D South championship. “They’re a good team and they fight to the end.”

After empty possessions from each team to start the second half, Lisbon finally got the spark it needed. Halls launched a pass deep downfield to Henry Adams, who made an easy grab for a 42-yard gain after Therrien lost his footing trying to readjust to where the pass was thrown.

The long reception set up a 4-yard touchdown rush from Francis — who finished with 20 carries for 94 yards — four plays later to cut it to 21-7 with 5:17 remaining in the third quarter. Less than two minutes later, Lisbon had the ball again when Adams picked off Therrien — his first interception of the season — and returned it deep into Oak Hill territory.

The drive — also aided by a 15-yard penalty on the Raiders — lasted just three plays after two straight runs from Francis and a 5-yard quarterback keeper from Halls to make it 21-14 with 2:31 left in the third quarter.

Oak Hill punted the ball back to Lisbon just four plays later and the Greyhounds followed with one of their signature drives, going 59 yards on 15 plays and taking more than six minutes off the clock before Francis found the end zone on a run off right tackle.

Just when it looked as if the Greyhounds might find a way to snap their seven-game losing streak against the Raiders, though, Oak Hill did what it has become best known for over the past few years.

It found a way to win.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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