WALES — You know him. He walks into a room, lightens the mood, makes everyone smile and inspires them to have a better day without saying a word.
Kyle Flaherty was that guy Saturday for the Oak Hill football team.
After sitting out most of three games with twin quadriceps injuries, Flaherty brought his commanding presence back to the reigning Class D champions. The difference was palpable in a 32-2 trouncing of Old Orchard Beach.
“It’s awesome to be back,” Flaherty said. “They haven’t missed a beat at all. It just stinks being on the sideline. We really clicked today.”
Flaherty rushed 13 times for a team-high 168 yards and a touchdown. Dalton Therrien and Alex Mace each ran for a score and hooked up for another through the air.
The defense was equally inspired for Oak Hill (4-1), to the tune of four fumble recoveries, two sacks and an interception.
“We got real fired up before the game,” said two-way lineman Kody Voisine, who twice combined with Samson Lacroix to bury OOB’s quarterbacks well behind the line of scrimmage. “We wanted to make sure we had a big impact on OOB. OOB beat us last year. We didn’t like it. We had a chip on our shoulders. We just wanted to beat them.”
Oak Hill’s 24-2 halftime lead was deceiving. Three different drives for OOB (3-2) fizzled inside the Raiders’ 10-yard line.
Levi Buteau knocked down Bryan Roberts’ pass and Lacroix leveled Andrew Graves for a loss to stifle one series. In the second quarter, Buteau covered a Seagulls fumble at the 3 and Brendon Tervo pounced on another at the 4.
“Exact same recipe we used last week,” said OOB coach Dean Plante, whose team lost to Lisbon in its homecoming contest. “We moved the ball. We fumbled the ball twice inside the 5 and got stopped on the 10. We spotted them big points.”
OOB also gave it away in Oak Hill territory on its first possession, with Jonah Martin falling on a botched exchange at the 49.
That was sandwiched between two scoring drives by the Raiders.
Flaherty pounded away four consecutive times, the last for 32 yards, to set up Therrien’s 14-yard keeper.
Back-to-back tackle-breaking surges by Mace (8 carries, 80 yards) preceded Flaherty’s 26-yard scamper to the end zone.
“They deferred the kickoff, and I knew I wanted to receive the ball,” Flaherty said. “We just drove it down the field, and it got our confidence up and got the game rolling.”
In deference to foul weather – which actually turned out to be only an intermittent drizzle – Oak Hill returned to the double wing offense that fueled its win over Bucksport in the 2013 state final.
“Beginning on Tuesday we thought with the weather report that it may be sloppy,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “We practiced real hard this week in power formations. We felt we had to iron things out. We looked pretty good at times.”
With Mace, Flaherty and Buteau evenly splitting the carries, Oak Hill went 91 yards in seven huge chunks to take a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
All three had a ramble for double-digit yardage on the march, culminating in Mace’s 15-yard run with 10:45 remaining in the half.
“They’re versatile, and we have depth at that position,” Doucette said. “Kyle makes a difference. Kyle is a really good running back. He brings a dimension between the tackles that we haven’t had. He can run and read his blocking, and he’s always gaining yards as he runs.”
Flaherty’s 43-yard jaunt led to Adam Merrill’s 31-yard field goal and a 24-0 lead.
OOB scored its points when Oak Hill snapped out of the end zone on a punt following the Buteau takeaway.
“We didn’t match the physical play in the first quarter,” Plante said. “We made some adjustments. The kids stepped up after that, but when you’re down 24-0 it changes your game plan.”
Roberts was 6-for-13 for 98 yards before suffering a knee bruise late in the first half. He returned in the fourth quarter.
The second verse was same as the first. Matt Strout recovered a fumble on the second-half kickoff. Oak Hill immediately went up top for a 39-yard TD from Therrien to Mace.
Garrett Gile also intercepted backup quarterback Dylan Creswell. Later, Oak Hill applied the exclamation point by notching a safety in similar fashion to the one it gave away.
“We were working on those sort of things,” Doucette said of the turnover parade. “Defensively we bend, don’t break, and the philosophy worked today.”