WALES — A decision made more than three months ago is still paying dividends for Connor Nilsson.

A senior wide receiver on the two-time defending Class D champion Oak Hill High School football team, Nilsson admits that prior to this season playing football in the summer was not always his top priority.

“Summer commitment was a problem for me, no doubt,” Nilsson said. “It’s one of my biggest regrets of my entire life.”

That all changed this past summer, though, as he prepared for his senior season. Nilsson was buried on the depth chart for the past few years and knew if he was going to make an impact in his career for the Raiders, this was it.

“I’ve been waiting to get my time but most importantly it’s kind of self-motivation,” Nilsson said. “…I committed myself this summer. I worked hard for it and it’s my senior season. I knew it was my time to shine.”

In the second half of the season Nilsson — who attended the Leavitt 7-on-7 league for the first time in his career this past summer — has come on strong. He and fellow seniors Jonah Martin and Colby Spencer, sophomore Darryn Bailey and junior Steve Gilbert have formed a balanced, yet successful receiving corps for the Raiders, who take on Maine Central Institute for the Class D state title Friday at 7 p.m. at the University of Maine.

“It’s just given us depth,” Martin said. “When someone’s not having a good game the other one’s picking us up and making the plays for us.”

In addition to his work in the offseason, it was a fast start from Martin that has helped in Nilsson’s emergence. Martin is the team’s leading receiver on the season with 23 catches for 389 yards and six touchdowns, and in the early part of the season, was routinely beating opposing defenses.

It was not long, though, until the opposition grew wise and started putting extra attention on Martin. That, however, allowed more one-on-one chances for Nilsson and the 6-foot-2 receiver has taken advantage to the tune of 15 catches for 259 yards and six touchdowns — including the go-ahead score on the first play of the fourth quarter in a 13-10 win over Winthrop/Monmouth in the Class D South semifinals.

“Me and Jonah help each other out in that way a lot because if one of us has a hot game the team that goes there to scout, they double cover them (and) boom, that leaves one of us open,” Nilsson said. “You put your best player on me then that means Jonah is going to be open. One of us is always going to be open no matter what. You can put your best (defensive backs) on me and Jonah and then you’ve got Darryn on the other side who’s open. You can’t cover us all.”

Bailey, meanwhile, does not have a ton of catches this season but his best days in the program likely lay ahead. The sophomore has 10 grabs for 167 yards and two touchdowns, while defensively he has 40 tackles and a team-high two interceptions.

“Darryn is my jump ball guy. He’s a big, tall receiver,” Raiders quarterback Dalton Therrien said. “…Darryn is probably the most athletically gifted kid that we’ve got on the team. He’s 6-2 and he can just go up and get it.”

Spencer and Gilbert have also had their moments. Spencer has hauled in eight passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns, while Gilbert — who at times is split out at wide receiver and at others is in the backfield — has 11 catches for 107 yards.

“They all have special traits and we just put them in positions to be successful,” Oak Hill head coach Stacen Doucette said. “…It’s not necessarily the person, it’s the play. That’s our focus. We’re not here to get any one person special stats. We’re here to win games, and the unselfish play is part of what we preach and it’s important to our program.”

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.