“How much do you weigh now? 165?”
Pease rolled his eyes and dropped his chin ever-so-slightly, two terms of body language that come naturally to a player who isn’t prone to talk about himself. “I think I’ve probably lost some since double sessions,” he said with an apologetic smile.
Doucette widened his eyes and recoiled in mock horror. Those aren’t exactly the words a coach wants to hear from an interior lineman on both sides of the ball; a player around whom the Raiders’ hopes for Class D championship repeat are quietly built.
It isn’t a new dilemma, though. From freshman year to his current status as one of Oak Hill’s senior leaders, the 5-foot-7 Pease is consistently outsized by everyone he encounters, both in games and at practice.
“He is Rudy,” Doucette said, referring to the legendary Notre Dame walk-on and motion picture title character. “As a freshman and sophomore he got knocked around. Now he finds a way to make the most of what he has to work with.”
Pease emerged as a junior, blocking for now-graduated quarterback Parker Asselin and the backfield tandem of Kyle Flaherty and Alex Mace en route to the state title.
When the opponent has the ball, Pease lines up alongside the equally diminutive Samson Lacroix (5-8, 145) at the heart of Oak Hill’s defense.
“It’s not really about the size. It’s the heart you put into the game,” Pease said. “I’m not that big. You just have to work hard.”
And being versatile doesn’t hurt, either. Doucette said that Pease has started at four different defensive positions in his varsity career.
“He learns four every week,” Doucette said. “Lacroix leads our team in tackles, but Mikey is our MVP on ‘D.’ He does it all.”
Grueling practices come somewhat naturally to Pease.
As a freshman and sophomore — perhaps 10 pounds lighter than he is now — he was on the Raiders’ scout team. The assignment is to simulate the upcoming opponent and their tendencies while putting your own starters through the midweek paces.
Hardly glamorous stuff, but it doesn’t sound like an overwhelming assignment … until you factor in the reality that former Oak Hill stars Mike Saunders and Luke Washburn both checked in at well above six feet and over 220 pounds.
“He went against them in all the drills and kept fighting,” Doucette said.
Pease learned to hit low and not to back down.
“It’s all in technique,” he said. “It doesn’t make you want to give up. If you love the sport, it doesn’t matter. It makes you want to get better. It made me hit the weight room more. It made me learn the techniques better.”
Pease’s advice to anyone else who doesn’t have great physical stature on his side: Carve out the body you do have in the weight room.
“You should start early,” Pease said. “You should start probably eighth grade, so that when you come up you already know what to do and already have the basics. If you come in and start freshman year, then you have to learn what you do down there. I expected a lot of challenges, and there have been a lot of challenges.”
The same words apply to Oak Hill’s title defense.
Dirigo dealt the Raiders a 14-6 defeat in Week 2. Oak Hill (3-1) has been without Flaherty since early in that game due to a leg injury.
“I think we’ve had more injuries than anybody,” Doucette said. “We had five starters out last week.”
It makes Pease’s contributions and continued good health more important than ever.
Oak Hill has allowed only five touchdowns all season, and three have come against special teams.
Pease shrugs when asked if he identifies with Doucette’s description of the group as a “no-name defense.” Perhaps that’s because he faced such long odds in making a name for himself.
“It’s just a team. If you’re working hard, and the whole team’s working hard, then everything comes together,” Pease said. “We focus on everything. Even the small things.”