Prior to the 2013 season, it had more than three decades since the Oak Hill football program had seen a state championship.

But thanks to a new coach and group of talented players, the Raiders won the Gold Ball in 2013.

And then they won it again in 2014 and 2015. The three-peat elevated the Oak Hill program the most feared team in Class D.

In 2012, the first season with head coach Stacen Doucette, the Raiders made it as far as the semifinals of the Class C playoffs, falling to Dirigo 13-6. With the expansion of four classes entering 2013, Oak Hill dropped to Class D, where it had last won its last state championship, a 28-6 win over Foxcroft Academy in 1982.

 

 

“There wasn’t a lot of expectation, to be honest with you,” Oak Hill quarterback Parker Asselin said. “The year before, in 2012, we had a really good team. We had about 12 or 13 seniors, I think, and we came up a little short. All of those seniors graduated, and we were coming back with only five seniors. Four out of our five starting offensive linemen had graduated, so we didn’t have a lot of expectations.”

“We had a lot of faith in what Coach Doucette was going to do,” running back Kyle Flaherty added. “He had a special way of taking players who might not have been the most athletic guys, or the biggest guys, but would put them in positions to succeed.”

The Raiders got off to a strong start, but it was actually a loss that stands out in some players’ minds, a midseason game against Old Orchard Beach, in which Doucette lit into his team at halftime.

“We came out really sluggish in the first half,” Asselin said. “We were down two or three scores. Going into halftime, coach Doucette laid into us a little bit, told the seniors we were laying an egg and needed to step it up. In the second half, we ended up coming all the way back in the fourth quarter with a few minutes left. We drove all the way down the field, we were going in to score and win the game. I think we were at the 8-yard line. It was second down — and I’ll never forget it because Coach used to make fun of me forever because of this — on second down, we throw a fade into the end zone. I short-armed it, and ended up throwing a (interception) that cost us the comeback.”

At that time, the Raiders offense proved to be a force on the ground, with Flaherty and fellow running back Alex Mace carrying the bulk of the work. Flaherty was the bruiser, and Mace provided speed and was a pass catching threat for Asselin, who could take advantage in the passing game of defenses stacking the box.

“I just think everyone had heart,” Mace said. “We just wanted to do good, we wanted to make plays. It was never an individual that was rewarded, it was always the team. The offense, the defense, everything just kind of clicked.”

Oak Hill offensive lineman Austin Gaucher leaps for joy after Dalton Therrien scored a touchdown during a 2015 Class D South semifinal game in Wales. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Surviving Lisbon (a 21-20 win) in the semifinals and Dirigo (a 16-14 win) for the Class D South title set up the Raiders for a showdown with Bucksport for the state title on a chilly November evening at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

“I do remember that the way that we felt about every playoff game was, that was our championship,” said tight end/defensive lineman Luke Washburn. “It was fun that they were close, because each game (at that time) was the biggest game we ever played in. That was pretty special to be in those games.”

“Most teams seem to gear it down at the end of the season,” Flaherty added. “They’ll do more (helmet-only) practices. We were in full pads that entire week, and I think that was essential. It made us practice full steam that entire week. The mentality was loose and fun. We weren’t stressing ourselves out, we were just really happy for the opportunity to play in a big game like that.”

Flaherty had the game of his life, running for 217 yards on 42 carries and scoring three touchdowns. It was also a bit of a painful experience for the running back.

“I’ll never forget it,” said Asselin, who was 7 of 10 passing for 144 yards and two touchdowns. “Late in the fourth quarter, we were going in to score, we were probably at the 20 yard line. We were in the huddle, and I look at Kyle, and he’s got blood all over his face. I look at him and go ‘Kyle, are you all right?’ He’s just like ‘Yeah, I just bit the tip of my tongue off, I’m fine.’ I was like, ‘Excuse me?'”

“My mouthguard fell out and hit the ground (helmet) first,” Flaherty said. “I actually did, I bit the tip of my tongue off. My mouth was just filling (with blood), but I didn’t want to come out of the game, so I was trying to hide it from the refs. After the game, I think someone gave me chocolate ice cream (to ice it down), but it was just disgusting.”

Flaherty credited Washburn, who was the lone veteran returner on the offensive line at tight end, for his performance that day.

“(Washburn) just paved the way for (Mace) and I,” Flaherty said.

“We knew that was part of the game plan, that I’d be leading a lot of the places that we’d go with the ball,” Washburn said. “It was routine for me and him to look out for each other during the game and make sure I was doing my job so he could do his.”

The Raiders won 42-35, winning its first Gold Ball in 31 years. Asselin vividly remembers the reception the team received on the trip back to Wales.

“After the game, we had a big assembly at the high school,” Asselin said. “We had a big buffet. When we got off the turnpike, there must have been 10 or 15 fire trucks and ambulences escorting us home, fans lining up the streets. It was really incredible to see how much it meant to the community and how much they supported us.”

The state title win put a target on the Raiders’ back entering the 2014 season, but plenty of weapons returned, including Flaherty and Mace, to go along with new quarterback Dalton Therrien.

“It’s sort of the default thing for teams to want to beat the state champs,” Flaherty said. “We knew that. Again, we had a different team. And Coach Doucette, he’s scheming about how he can beat every single team and organize our team to be in the best position to win those games. Changing quarterbacks, changing offensive schemes with the O-Line, doing more zone offense and quick run-pass option sort of offense that 2014 season. I think we just changed with the players we had that season, and credit to Coach Doucette there, definitely.”

The Raiders were up to the challenge, finishing the season 11-1. After edging Lisbon 7-6 for the regional title, Oak Hill was set to defend its crown against Maine Central Institute at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“(At that point) we had been there before, we knew what it was like,” Mace said. “Coach would always say that ‘MCI is going to come out and act like they’re going to beat us. They’re going to come out puffing their chest. We’re going to act professional and act like we’ve been there before, like we know how.'”

The Oak Hill High School celebrates after it defeated Bucksport in the 2013 Class D state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

This time, it was Mace’s turn to break out, as he totaled 342 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on the way to a 41-21 victory.

“I don’t think I could have been the player I was without Alex, and our offensive line,” Flaherty said. “Teams would focus on one of us, and there was a stretch there where one of us was injured, and the other one would have to pick up the slack. That’s just how it worked. But it was great. And you notice it, too. Teams would change their defenses depending (how games went) the week before. But Coach Doucette knew that, so he’d prepare. And we had so many offensive sets that we’d be able to switch it up.”

It almost seemed like deja vu in 2015 for Oak Hill, which survived another 1-point victory over Lisbon (21-20) for the regional championship, setting up another showdown with MCI for the state crown. This time, the Raiders not only beat the Huskies 34-21 for the Gold Ball, but capped a perfect 11-0 season. Dalton led the way for the Raiders, running for 179 yards and four touchdowns, while also throwing for 243 yards.

Sadly, it would be the final state championship for Doucette, who died unexpectedly at the age of 45 shortly after the 2019 season. In seven seasons, Doucette finished 51-23 to go along with his three titles. In September, the school named the football field Stacen Doucette Memorial Field.

“There’s so many quotes from him (that I remember),” Mace said. “I can definitely say that he influenced me into the person I am today.”

“He’s the greatest coach I ever had,” Washburn added. “The No. 1 thing that stood out to me about him was, his whole focus of his life — aside from his whole family — was to give young men a better chance at being good men. It was clear that was the reason he was coaching, not just to win football games.”

 

Dave Dyer — 621-5610

[email protected]

Twitter: @Dave_Dyer

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