Game of the week: Raiders begin tough stretch with their toughest opponent yet, unbeaten Wells

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September visits to the coast can often be refreshing. The air is a little crisper and the beaches are a lot less crowded. 

Oak Hill spent the last two Friday nights on the coast and, after losing to Old Orchard Beach and Oceanside of Rockland, is probably glad it doesn’t have to return any time soon.

The Raiders are now 2-2 and home for the next three weekends, a crucial stretch of games that could decide their hopes of playing in the postseason. The homestand starts Saturday with the team most consider the best in Class D, 4-0 Wells.

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The Warriors lost a lot of starters from last year’s Class C state title team but haven’t missed a beat in their new classification. After routing Winthrop/Monmouth and Spruce Mountain by a combined 81-0 score, they proved they could still be a strong contender in Class C South by beating one of its top teams, Cape Elizabeth, 14-7.

Last week, they rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to beat the team some consider their most formidable foe in D South, Madison, 25-21. 

The Warriors thrive off of wearing opponents down with a powerful ground attack. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, senior fullback Nolan Potter is as tough to bring down as any ball-carrier in D South, but also runs with deceptive elusiveness.

There’s nothing deceptive about junior halfback Tyler Bridge’s speed, or the steadiness of senior QB Michael Wrigley, who isn’t asked to throw much but usually finds his target when he does. Although Potter is the focal point on offense, Bridge and Wrigley can’t be overlooked.

Wells’ Wing-T will be the toughest test yet for an Oak Hill defense that can be stout at times. The Raiders don’t mind mixing it up in the trenches with a physical opponent, but would get a big boost if playmakers such as Cruz Poirier, Darryn Bailey, Bailey Drouin and Austin Pierce can force some turnovers.

Oak Hill likely won’t be intimidated by Wells’ Class C pedigree. Last week, the Raiders led Class C North’s Oceanside 20-14, at halftime, lost the lead, then were a fumble inside the Mariners’ 5 from regaining the lead before falling, 28-20.

Just like Wells, Oak Hill can chew up the clock by giving the ball to workhorse senior running back Poirier, who rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns against Oceanside.

Poirier is a big part of the Raiders’ passing game, too, whether it’s providing timely pass protection for freshman QB Gavin Rawstron or going out on a pattern. If the secondary gets caught trying to cheat on Poirier, Rawstron has one of the best receivers in Class D at his disposal in Bailey. Wells will no doubt try to take away the Raiders’ big-play receiver.

Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette went into the season expecting his young team would be inconsistent early and then work its way up to playing its best at playoff time. But the Raiders need to make the playoffs first, and, to that end, the teams they’ve beaten so far haven’t provided many Heal points.

Their second-half schedule, which also consists of Madison, Winthrop/Monmouth and Lisbon, will give them plenty of opportunities to collect Heal points and move up in the standings. But that tough slate suggests they can’t afford to wait to start playing their best football.

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