WALES — After being sidetracked in preseason by a injuries at a couple of key positions, Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale’s power running game picked up plenty of steam for Saturday’s matchup with Oak Hill.

Combined with timely completions by senior quarterback Keegan Choate, the Ramblers’ running game had plenty of answers for the Raiders in a 42-21 victory.

Ian Steele (79 yards, TD) and Jevin Smith (33 yards, three TDs) led a slew of Rambler ball-carriers, who combined to chew up 217 yards on the ground.

“Jevin missed the first exhibition and our scrimmage and then our tight end (Noah Dunn) got hurt in the scrimmage,” St. Hilaire said. “We knew we were going to put it in, but we had to wait for the personnel to be healthy. We ran it a little bit last week (in a 43-0 win over Camden Hills) but we only put in a couple of plays and it didn’t really look good. So we had a chance this week to continue working on it.”

“But we saw last week that Jevin had a couple of runs where he just ran the ball hard and was more comfortable running it,” St. Hilaire added.

Smith looked pretty comfortable on his three touchdown runs of 5, 13 and 11 yards. The first two put the Ramblers up 14-0 midway through the second quarter. Smith’s final TD answered Oak Hill’s touchdown to open the second half that had pulled the Raiders (1-2) within one possession, 21-14.

“We can’t do anything without our line. They’re tough guys,” Smith said.

The Ramblers (2-1) enjoyed much of their success in a power-I formation, usually with fullback Kyzer Card, Smith and Steele lined up in the backfield behind Choate. The Ramblers also spread the carries among Card, Choate, Logan Baird, Beau Schmelzer  and Jake Sousa and to wear down the Raiders on an 80-degree afternoon.

“They’re a very well-coached team, a very physical team, and a senior-led team,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said of the Ramblers. “We expected a three-man backfield, but they were just physical and did a very good job. Those kids have a boat-load of experience.”

After Smith’s 11-yard TD run put the Ramblers up 28-14, Oak Hill made it a one-possession game again when Gavin Rawstron (18-for-35, 187 yards, three TDs, one interception) threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Arbour that made it 28-21 early in the fourth.

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale inflated the cushion again on its next possession when Choate (6-for-11, 132 yards, TD, INT) found Gavin Perkins near the right sideline for a 44-yard touchdown pass that put the Ramblers up 34-21 with 9:26 left.

“I told the kids the thing I was most proud of today was both times they scored, we answered with scores,” St. Hilaire said. “It was fighting through adversity. Guys were down and out of the game and we answered with pretty clean drives. That says a lot for these guys who are really starting to understand what it takes to be successful.”

Two plays into Oak Hill’s ensuing drive, Steele provided the clincher with a 61-yard interception return for a touchdown, following a legion of blockers while cutting from the middle of the field to the left sideline.

“They did the same route and buried me on it once before,” Steele said. “I saw he was going to go there again. I just read his eyes and the ball just literally hit me right in the hands and I took off with it. I got great blocks and my safety, Jake Souza, got the edge set and I just went home.”

Rawstron led the Raiders with 68 rushing yards on 13 carries. He also had touchdown passes of 40 yards to Caden Thompson and 23 yards to Liam Rodrigue (6 catches, 56 yards).  Sam Lindsay had an interception for the Raiders.

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