WINTHROP — The celebrations could still be heard coming from the Oak Hill High School sideline when Dave St. Hilaire delivered a message to his players on the Winthrop/Monmouth sideline.
“We told them ‘guys, it’s either going to be 25-0 or 24-1,’ ” the Winthrop/Monmouth head football coach said. “ ‘What do you guys want to do?’ ”
Here’s where it’s important to know the backstory. This was Oak Hill, three-time defending Class D champion and winner of two dozen consecutive games. And with just under 10 and a half minutes remaining, and having just gone up by a touchdown, the Raiders were moving closer toward adding another notch to the list.
St. Hilaire trusted he had a team that wouldn’t let that happen. He was right.
“We’d faced adversity before,” running back Alec Brown said. “We knew what it was. We knew we couldn’t just roll over and quit.”
The team on the other sideline had the titles, but the Ramblers’ response was the stuff of champions. The Ramblers capped back-to-back drives with Alec Brown touchdowns to rally late and defeat the Raiders, 29-22, in a pivotal Campbell Conference Class D South matchup at Maxwell Field.
Gone is the Raiders’ winning streak at 24 games, the longest in the state. Instead, it’s the Ramblers who made the statement that, with playoffs approaching and a top overall seed entirely within their grasp, they’re the team to beat.
“That says a lot about the team,” said Brown, who ran for three touchdowns altogether. “We’re fighters. We’ll go until the last whistle. We’re never down, we’ll get back up.”
Oak Hill grabbed a 22-15 lead with 10:27 left in the game on Matt Strout’s 6-yard keeper. Undeterred, the Ramblers went to work. With the two-pronged rushing attack of Nate Scott (20 carries, 173 yards) and Brown (16 carries, 124 yards) battering the Oak Hill front, W/M marched from its 47-yard line to the Oak Hill 5, where Brown dove in to tie the game with 7:42 to go.
“Everyday at practice, we’re always testing ourselves, pushing our mental toughness to try to get ready for games like this,” Scott said. “Today, it paid off.”
The score still left the mission of stopping Oak Hill, which the Ramblers managed to accomplish when Andrew Pazdziorko recovered a Strout fumble at the Raiders 44. With the win now in front of them, the Ramblers picked up the pace. Scott ran for 23 yards on the first carry and then caught a deflected pass from Matt Ingram for 14 yards, helping to set the stage for Brown’s rush from a yard out that gave the Ramblers the 29-22 lead with 4:27 to go.
Brown had another big carry in him. After Oak Hill turned the ball over on downs looking for a long ball through the air, the senior ran for 5 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Oak Hill 43 to ice the win with just over a minute to go.
The way the game played out was predictable considering the undefeated records and impressive seasons both teams carried into the game. The play was even, both teams responded to the other’s big gains and scores and one play – be it a mistake, a missed assignment or even an odd bounce – provided the separation.
“I think that they’re just a little faster,” Raiders coach Stacen Doucette replied when asked if there was a difference between the two teams. “They’re a physical team, they’re a very good team, they’re very well-coached. It was just a good football game. I don’t know if there is a difference.”
The combination of Brown and Scott seemed to provide one. Opposite runners yet interchangeable in Winthrop/Monmouth’s offense, the pair took turns sparking the Ramblers.
“We knew they were going to try to take away one thing, and it looked like they were going to try to take away Alec up the middle,” St. Hilaire said. “We got some stuff outside, we hit the home run ball, and things started opening up up the middle.”
The two were involved from the start. W/M’s first strike of the game came when it appeared the Raiders had the Ramblers in trouble with 5:42 left in the first quarter. Oak Hill drove to the 50-yard line before punting the ball away, but pinned W/M at its own 3-yard line in the process.
The field position victory didn’t last long. Brown took the first carry and broke through the Oak Hill line, racing 68 yards down the right sideline before he was finally brought down at the Raiders 29. Scott took over, taking the next four carries and making it down to the 5, and Brown punched it in for a touchdown to make it 7-0 with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
The Ramblers appeared ready to land another blow on their next series, marching down to the Oak Hill 4 before Ingram’s pass was intercepted by Austin Noble. Oak Hill took advantage of the new life, as Steve Gilbert (18 carries, 114 yards) took a sweep to the right 77 untouched yards to make it 8-7 after a 2-point conversion with 8:08 left in the half.
Again, the Ramblers had an answer, with Ingram hitting Bennett Brooks for a 49-yard touchdown pass to make the score 15-8 with 6:25 left, where it stood through the rest of the half.
It takes more than a few punches to knock out a champion, and the Raiders were unfazed to start the second half. Oak Hill was gifted a Brown fumble and seized the chance, going 31 yards and scoring when Gilbert ran it in up the middle from five yards out to trim the gap to 15-14 with 4:39 left in the third.
The Raiders weren’t slowed on their next series, a 65-play drive that started in the third and carried over into the fourth. Strout (5-of-11, 66 yards; 11 carries, 47 yards) connected with Gilbert for 28 yards on 3rd-and-17 and Austin Pierce for 11 on 3rd-and-9, and then finished the drive himself from six yards out with 10:27 to go.
It was the Raiders’ last lead of the night. Given a test by the class’s best, the Ramblers stood tall.
“They just punched us in the mouth, and we needed an answer,” St. Hilaire said. “We challenged them and they drove down and scored.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5628

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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