Oak Hill’s Caden Thompson heads towards the end zone on a touchdown run. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

MADISON — Caden Thompson made his share of highlights. Then Tiger Hopkins impressed when he got his chances. And so did Quentin Pelkey.

It made sense. When one running back for the Oak Hill football team makes a big run, chances are the others are buckling their chin straps, waiting for their turn to go out and do the same thing.

“Me, Caden and Quentin rotate in, and we just feed off each other,” Hopkins said. “(If) Caden makes a nice run, I get pumped in there, I want to run farther than him. It’s a fun little friendly rivalry that we bond over.”

On Friday night, all three had chances to shine. Hopkins ran nine times for 107 yards and a touchdown, while Thompson ran four times for 51 yards and two scores and Pelkey, the more downhill runner of the three, had eight carries for 41 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“That’s the type of skills we have. It’s the guy that’s hot or the guy that makes a play,” coach Stacen Doucette said. “We really don’t focus on one. I think that’s our strength of our offense. There is no one person to focus on.”

Thompson had the first big run of the night, a 37-yard touchdown on a sweep that started left, then changed course right through the Madison defense to make it 7-0. Then it was Hopkins’s turn with a 29-yard run that set the stage for Pelkey’s 5-yard touchdown run, upping the lead to 28-0, and Thompson struck again when he scored from 13 yards out on the next drive for a 35-0 advantage. Hopkins had one more big run in the half, a 40-yard scamper that made it 41-7.

“I think the kids are just competing,” Doucette said. “I think the backs are competing against each other to push each other. They’re competing for reps, and they know it.”

A byproduct of that competition is hard running. Broken tackles were a theme of the night, as Thompson was hit behind the line of scrimmage on the sweep that became the first score of the game, and on Hopkins’ 40-yard run he appeared to be tackled by a group of Bulldogs by the left sideline, only to spin out and break through for the rest of the run.

“We did go back to conditioning and a little bit of physicality,” Doucette said. “And we think it paid off.”

“I think in practice we do hit kind of hard,” Hopkins said. “We love hitting hard, so we can break tackles pretty easily.”

 

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Jamal Cariglia missed the first four games of the season. He quickly got to work making up for lost time in his first game back.

The junior linebacker and running back was a game-changing presence on both sides of the ball for the Rams in their 9-6 victory over Wyndham on Friday night. On defense, Cariglia made 15 tackles, forced two fumbles and even made a highlight-reel one-handed interception that stopped an Eagles drive cold.

“He’s a difference-maker,” coach B.L. Lippert said. “He’s all over the field, and he sometimes freelances a little bit more than you’d like, he doesn’t necessarily always do what he’s supposed to in our scheme, but everything he does is at 100 miles an hour and he makes a lot of plays.”

Cariglia also gained over 70 yards on the ground, and played a key role as the Rams drove down the field for the winning field goal in the closing seconds. Lippert said he wasn’t concerned about easing him into the action for his first game.

“I don’t have to worry about utilizing him,” he said. “He’s one you give the ball to any way you can. His natural ability to make plays is probably unlike anybody we have on our team.”

 

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Cony’s win was made final by a 22-yard field goal by Kyle Douin. Lippert acknowledged that Douin’s reliability allowed the Rams to handle the ending to the game differently than they might have in years past.

“I have all the confidence in the world in him. … He’s really critical to our team. What he does on special teams is a huge added bonus,” Lippert said. “Once we got inside the 15, I was pretty content to run the ball three times, use a timeout and kick a field goal to win it.

“In past years, we definitely would have been trying to air it out and score through the air just to confirm it that way instead of trusting a kicker. But once we got in range, I said ‘If we can get this in the middle of the field, I’m pretty sure Kyle will knock it through.’ ”

 

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It’s been a rough start to the season for Gardiner, but even at 1-4, the Tigers have an opening to sneak into the playoffs.

Gardiner sits in ninth in the B North Crabtree points, one place behind Skowhegan (1-4) for the eighth and final playoff seed. Before playing Cony (5-0) in the regular-season finale, the Tigers face Messalonskee (0-5) and Mt. Blue (3-2). If they beat both the Eagles and the Cougars (or one of those teams and then pull the upset against Cony), the three wins they’d have could be enough to push them into the postseason.

Skowhegan will be tough to pass since it plays 1-4 Hampden and 0-5 Messalonskee and has a tough schedule behind it (having already played Brunswick, Cony and Lawrence), but Brewer (seventh, 1-4) still has to play both Brunswick (5-0) and Lawrence (4-1), two of the best teams in B North. Provided they get the help they need — Windham beating Lawrence on Oct. 18, for instance, which would improve the winning percentage of the Tigers’ opponents without affecting that of the Witches’ — the Tigers are still alive, but a win over Mt. Blue this weekend is a must.

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