Stacen Doucette was confident going into the season opener Friday night. But the Oak Hill High School football coach knew his team’s game with Poland wasn’t a sure thing. It never is when you’re relying on a freshman at quarterback, one who hasn’t seen the twists and turns of a varsity game before.

“You never know how freshmen are going to play because they’re going to be put in first-time situations,” said Doucette, whose Raiders took the field with freshman Gavin Rawstron under center. “Bad snap on a pass play, are they going to pick it up and try to throw it? … Are they going to be nervous if someone lines up in the wrong spot or someone runs the wrong route?”

Doucette and the rest of the Raiders coaches got their answer. After performing well enough in the preseason to win the starting nod, Rawstron excelled in his first test, completing 13 of 17 passes for 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead Oak Hill to a 28-14 victory over Poland.

It was just what Doucette had been hoping to see since going with the freshman to lead a team that has new starters aplenty on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

“We ask our quarterback to lead our team, in and out of formations and transitions for plays and play calls, and I thought he did a very good job in that respect,” he said. “We had no fumbled snaps, we had no offsides, so he basically managed the team pretty well. I think he made decisions with the ball. … When kids were covered, he threw it away. He kept composed, he moved out of the pocket when there was nothing there, he strung the play on.”

Doucette said they opened the playbook for the game, calling on Rawstron to work with both short and long passes.


“I thought we ran a variety of different kinds of concepts and passes,” he said. “We ran some short, some vertical, some straight back screens. We did a little bit of everything. We wanted to keep the ball moving and the defense guessing, and the kids did a good job.”

Rawstron’s most impressive trait may have been his confidence and poise, however, with Doucette saying that the freshman right away had command of his team.

“He showed very much poise,” he said. “The kids respect him, I think the kids like him, and they follow him. They root for him. When he was interviewed by the paper, they were all congratulating him and happy for him. That’s a sign of respect from his teammates, I believe.”

• • •

One aggressive play swung momentum and the lead over to Cony’s side during its opener against Falmouth. Another swung it back to the Yachtsmen — unfortunately, for the Rams, to stay.

With the score tied at 7, Cony jumped ahead with 10:38 to play in the second quarter on a double-pass from quarterback Anthony Sousa to wide receiver Reed Hopkins, then downfield to receiver Elijah Dutil — the same play Julian Edelman famously executed with the Patriots in a 2014 playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. It put Cony ahead 13-7, but the Rams rolled the dice again on the ensuing kickoff and lost, trying a surprise onside kick that Falmouth recovered at its own 43-yard line. The Yachtsmen cashed in five plays later for a 14-13 lead, and never trailed again.


The pass was the high point of the game for the Rams and ignited the Cony crowd. Hopkins started in motion to the left, peeling back in time after the snap to haul in the quick pass from Sousa. Hopkins then stopped and threw downfield to Dutil, who had taken off down the sideline and was left all alone by the Falmouth defense.

“As soon as we lined up, I figured it was going to work,” Hopkins said. “I was a little nervous, first to catch the ball and then to make a good throw, because I figured he’d be wide open. I had to make sure I didn’t overthrow him or underthrow him.”

Coach B.L. Lippert said he thought at first that Hopkins had put too much on it, but the the ball sailed straight to Dutil, who sprinted in untouched for the score. It was a copy of the play the Rams had tried in their playoff loss to Brewer last year, though Chad Bickford’s pass to Dutil in November missed by inches.

“It was the exact same play,” Lippert said. “Reed played a little quarterback as a freshman. He didn’t want to, because he doesn’t like playing there, but he’s a good athlete and he can throw it.”

The energy the play generated was sapped by the kickoff, though Lippert said it wasn’t a gamble as much as the Rams trying to take advantage of what they thought was an advantageous setup.

“Their inside guys on the kick return were both on the hash. We thought we could maybe put the ball on the right hash and squib it to the middle and have a shot at it,” Lippert said. “We had guys designed to go block those guys on the way, and we had three or four guys there and they had one — an offensive lineman, no less — and he made a great play. Maybe that’s why he’s on the front row.”


• • •

For the Gardiner and Morse football teams, plays from scrimmage were often an adventure right from the snap.

The Tigers and Shipbuilders combined for nine fumbled or bobbled snaps in Gardiner’s 26-6 victory Saturday, with Gardiner commiting five and Morse mishandling four.

The struggles under center had a direct effect on the scoreboard. The score was tied at 6 during the second quarter when Morse’s Parker Onorato intercepted a Cole Heaberlin pass, falling to the ground at the Morse 2-yard line. Shipbuilder quarterback Corey Larmon lost the ball on the snap three plays later, falling on it in the end zone for a safety and an 8-6 Gardiner advantage. The Tigers scored on the ensuing series and led the rest of the way.

Coach Joe White said there was a reason for his team’s sloppy execution, as Gardiner had to switch to a new center in Cam Austin only days before the game.

“We repped a new center this week, and sometimes that can alter your timing,” White said. “We talked to Cole about maybe leaving under center a little too early. He probably got some nerves and jitters, and he’s trying to make big plays happen. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re trying to make big plays and you’re trying to do good things for your team.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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