They’re the underdogs. They’re the seventh seed facing the undefeated top seed. The team no one thought would make it this far, playing the team everyone from day one had slotted not just for this week, but the next as well.

So it’s no surprise the Oak Hill football team is feeling loose and relaxed going into Friday’s Class D South final with defending state champion Wells.

“It’s us against the world,” coach Stacen Doucette said. “Wells is not supposed to lose this game. We have nothing to lose.”

Less expected? The Warriors are feeling the same way.

“I just said to (the players), ‘Do you guys feel pressure about this whole thing?’ And they’re like ‘Nope,’ ” Wells coach Tim Roche said. “They just feel like ‘Let’s go out and play football again.’ They enjoy the games so much, they enjoy what we do, that there’s not that feeling of ‘I’ve got to do this, I have to make this play.'”

Their demeanors and approaches aside, the teams share little in common. Wells (10-0) is the ultimate favorite, having not lost a Class D game since moving from Class C before last season. Oak Hill (5-5) is the ultimate upstart, a team that lost four of its last five regular-season games before scoring upset playoff wins over No. 2 Lisbon and No. 6 Madison to make the regional final.

“I think there’s a silent confidence,” Doucette said. “The kids don’t panic, they feel like they’re in every game, and I think the coaches do too.”

Another similarity, however, is star power. Few players in Class D — or in the state, for that matter — are more dynamic than Wells running back Tyler Bridge, who’s rushed for over 2,000 yards this season and scored a total of 36 touchdowns, and scored nine touchdowns on the ground this postseason. But Wells has unveiled another weapon in recent weeks in Payton MacKay, who rushed for 196 yards and four scores in the Warriors’ win over Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale last week.

“He gives us a whole new element,” Roche said. “Now if you’re going to load up to Tyler, if you’re going to commit four or five guys to Tyler, you’re in trouble.”

Stopping Bridge, who ran for 307 yards and seven touchdowns in a quarterfinal win over Poland, has been an impossible task for Wells’s opponents, and with MacKay in the mix as well, Doucette said the goal for the Raiders is containment, and forcing the Warriors to spend time and effort to get their points.

“On offense, they’re a well-oiled machine,” he said. “I think our concept this time is just not to break. If things start to go down a spiral, not to panic, to refocus and stop the bleeding.”

And then give the ball to the offense, where Oak Hill has a standout of its own. Gavin Rawstron has blossomed as a running and passing threat at quarterback in his sophomore year, compiling over 2,500 total yards and accounting for six touchdowns — five rushing, one throwing — in the two playoff victories.

Oak Hill’s Samuel Lindsay (14) gets tackled by Madison’s Brad Peters in the first quarter last weekend in Madison. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Rawstron is the Raiders’ major hope for an upset, and Roche said the Warriors will have to find a way to slow him down.

“They’ve got some good football players, they’ve got some tough kids on the line,” Roche said. “But … the stats will show you that if you shut down him, you’ll do fine. He is their offense, and he’s very good.”

Doucette, meanwhile, said the presence of All-Star caliber players on both teams puts the onus on the supporting casts to step up. That includes units like the Wells defense, which gets overshadowed by the offense but has allowed 13.1 points per game. Or the Oak Hill offensive line, which has found a rhythm cycling upper and underclassmen alike.

“I think the players kind of wash each other out, though,” Doucette said. “Great players always seem to rise up in big games, but I think the role players are the ones that win the game. … We talk about having 11 battles on the field. The team that wins the most battles wins the game.”

Oak Hill looked up for the challenge the first time the teams met in September — for a while, at least. The Raiders scored on their first drive, and was tied with Wells at 13 in the second quarter. Everything changed in the second half, however, when the Warriors pulled away and the Raiders were left looking for answers.

Oak Hill tailback Samuel Lindsay, left, blocks for quarterback Gavin Rawstron during a Class D South game this season in Wales. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“The confidence is pretty high, because of our success in the first quarter,” Doucette said. “(But) we know we’ve got to solve some problems. Our young kids acted young in the third quarter.”

A lot has changed since then. Doucette’s hoping that’ll lead to a new result.

“We have to control time of possession, I think we have to win in the category of penalties and turnovers,” he said. “I think we need to stay within the gameplan and scheme, and I hope to get some breaks.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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