The Oak Hill football team took care of business. Now things get tricky.

The Raiders played three straight home games to start the season, and to their credit they took advantage of the September schedule. Oak Hill knocked off all three teams, outscoring their foes 85-32 and building their win streak — the state’s longest — to 24 games.

But now the road — emphasis on “road” — gets rockier. Oak Hill will travel to face its next three opponents, and it’s safe to say neither one will be afraid of the three-time Class D champions. First up is Winthrop/Monmouth, perfect at 3-0. Next is Lisbon at 2-1, whose only loss came to Winthrop/Monmouth. Then it’s Dirigo, a deceiving 1-2 since both losses came to — go figure — Winthrop-Monmouth and Lisbon.

Not a great time to be leaving Wales’ comfortable confines.

“It’s always tougher on the road,” Raiders coach Stacen Doucette said. “It’s a shorter week, two out of three are night games and we don’t play on Friday nights as often. It’s one less practice day so we’ve got to condense our practice schedule. We’ve got to put less in and just be fundamentally sound, and that’s our goal this week.”

If last weekend provided any indication, the Raiders are in good shape for the gauntlet. Oak Hill breezed by Medomak, 21-0, with quarterback Matt Strout doing much of the damage himself with 270 passing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

“He’s got a strong enough arm to get the ball down (the field) vertically, and … he does not shy away from contact,” Doucette said. “He will look down the barrel of the gun, and when he’s running the ball he’s a load. He runs behind his shoulder pads and he does a good job for our program.”

It’ll take more heroics from Strout — and a fair share of his teammates — for Oak Hill to emerge from the three-game stretch unscathed. All three teams are eying high playoff spots, with Winthrop/Monmouth in position to make a play for the top overall seed and the home field advantage that comes with it. And with the stakes rising and the end of the season approaching, Doucette said the urgency and intensity starts to climb as well.

“I think reality sets in for the seniors,” he said. “They’re down to the second half of their senior season, and each game becomes more meaningful. It’s hard to say any game is more important than the other, but it becomes that.

“I think each win from here on out would guarantee a home playoff game. So those are some of the things we talk about. We don’t care about where we get seeded; we just want to play hard for our seniors and make this a great season for them.”

• • •

Winless entering the weekend, Gardiner is now ready to believe.

“We want to make playoffs, and that goal was set (Saturday),” said coach Joe White, whose team beat Nokomis, 21-19, to improve to 1-3. “They said ‘We’re going to win up at Nokomis,’ and they agreed as a team (there’s) nothing the coaches can say or do. It’s on them, and they owned it (Saturday).”

At first glimpse, it’s overreaction. Gardiner, after all, plummeted to the Class B North basement with blowout losses in its first three games and it hasn’t made the playoffs since 2012.

But a look at the standings and schedule shows that White may be on to something. Gardiner has all .500 or worse teams on its schedule, including winless Mt. Blue this weekend and 1-3 Cony in the final game of the season. A matchup with a tough Lawrence team looms Oct. 7, but Gardiner can win the rest and finish .500 — and in the running for an elusive postseason berth.

It’ll require some good bounces and breaks, as well as a higher caliber of play than the Tigers have put on display so far.

“We’ve got to tighten up careless, sloppy stuff,” White said. “We have to fix (that) so we can be better as we approach playoffs.”

• • •

If it’s urgency time for Cony at least the Rams will have their leader to bring them through it.

Quarterback Taylor Heath was hurt during Cony’s 36-12 loss to Lawrence on Friday night, but re-entered the game midway through the Rams’ next possession. On Monday, coach B.L. Lippert confirmed there were no lingering effects and that Heath is cleared and set to go for the team’s next game, a Friday night matchup with Brewer.

“We’re certainly relieved to have him,” Lippert said. “He’s got a year and a half under his belt and he’s a really good player for us.”

Heath was hurt on the second to last play from scrimmage of the first quarter, when he kept the ball on an option play and was dropped by a Lawrence defensive lineman for no gain. Heath got off the field slowly, but after meeting with trainers was back in four offensive plays later.

Lippert reviewed the play on film, and said he was happy to see the hit wasn’t head-to-head.

“He was driven into the side more than a helmet-to-helmet hit, which I was relieved (about),” he said. “Those can be damaging.”

• • •

Even on the wrong end of a 44-6 score Saturday against the Hyde School, Kents Hill coach Steve Shukie came away feeling encouraged.

“There were a lot of things we could point to and say ‘That was good, and we could do it better,’ ” he said. “We’re going to face teams that are like this again, but we’ll be in a better position.”

The Huskies had to travel more than three and a half hours just to play their season opener, and the long trip may have sapped the team of some energy as it found itself trailing 37-0 at halftime.

“A team that was very good that we were playing against, and we kind of shot ourselves in the foot early,” Shukie said.

Kents Hill rebounded in the second half, getting big plays from defensive linemen Stuart Vine and Mariano Morales, and Shukie wasn’t about to dismiss it as garbage time.

“We fought better against their ones. They kept their ones in for the third quarter,” he said. “Our defense looked great in the second half.”

• • •

Gardiner’s game with Mt. Blue will include a familiar, and iconic, presence.

Former Tigers coach John Wolfgram, along with his wife, Adin, will be present to accept the John Burgess “Whatever It Takes” Award for his contributions to the program — a stint on the sidelines from 1975-85 that included state championships in 1979, ’81 and ’85.

The Wolfgrams will receive the award during a pregame ceremony.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifant


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