LISBON — Oak Hill entered Saturday’s game at Lisbon knowing that no result would help its Class D West football playoff position. It probably will have to hit the road twice to earn a shot at defending the state title.
None of that stopped the Raiders from sending a clear message: That the road to the Gold Ball still passes through them.
Enjoying optimum health for the first time this season, senior Kyle Flaherty carried 27 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns, the final one a 68-yard backbreaker, and led Oak Hill to a 28-14 victory at Thompson Field.
“I’ve really stuck to it,” said Flaherty, who has overcome muscle pulls in both legs. “I went to therapy three days a week for I don’t even know how long.”
Alex Mace added 146 all-purpose yards and Kyle Tervo caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Therrien for Oak Hill, which converted two early Lisbon lost fumbles into scores and never let off the accelerator.
By virtue of the Crabtree point system, Oak Hill (7-1) remains the No. 3 seed behind No. 1 Lisbon (6-1) and No. 2 Dirigo (6-1) and will host Maranacook in the quarterfinals next Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter where we stand, because we know where we’re going and how we’re going to do it,” said Therrien, who completed 4 of 8 passes for 117 yards.
Flaherty’s long run as the horn blared to end the third period, coupled with Adam Merrill’s fourth extra point of the afternoon, made a 28-6 lead.
Lisbon drove quickly to a 12-yard TD run by Joe Philbrick, who also caught the two-point pass from Kyle Bourget with 8:53 to play.
Flaherty returned the ensuing kick to the Oak Hill 28, where the Raiders retreated into their clock-killing double-wing offense, never allowing the Greyhounds to reclaim possession.
Mace converted two third downs and Flaherty one during the drive, with Therrien chalking up another on fourth down with a quarterback sneak. Therrien kneeled down inside the 5 to end the game.
“I told them we were going to have zero mistakes, and that this is the drive that’s going to spring us into the playoffs,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette.
Oak Hill earned the right to dictate the tempo with a nearly flawless first half.
Chad Merrill’s hit jarred the ball free for the first Lisbon turnover. Flaherty pounced at the Greyhounds’ 35. Seven consecutive runs by Flaherty and Mace covered the distance, punctuated by Flaherty from a yard out.
“I thought the fumble right off the bat kind of hurt us a bit,” Lisbon coach Dick Mynahan said. “It gave them a lot of momentum and set us back. We were reeling after that for a long time. That’s what you do in big games. You get a turnover, you score with it.”
The Raiders again stripped the ball on the ensuing kickoff, recovering at the 29. Lisbon held on third down, thanks to a Blake Berube sack. With all eyes on Mace on fourth down, Therrien went deep to Tervo in single coverage.
“We have a couple reads, but it looked open, and I trust all my wide receivers,” Therrien said. “They’re great athletes. Throw the ball up and let them go do the hard work.”
Lisbon’s next series reached the Oak Hill 33 before the Raiders forced a pooch punt. Oak Hill subsequently covered 90 yards in 10 plays – 59 of it on two connections from Therrien to Mace – to set up another 1-yard Flaherty plunge.
The Greyhounds’ four-minute offense yielded a needed score with six seconds remaining in the half – a 12-yard strike from Bourget (9 of 20, 131 yards) to Henry Adams that the Oak Hill coaching staff felt was aided by the turf.
“At the beginning of the season, we never thought we’d be in a game like this, so we’re pretty happy,” Mynahan said. “You take this game in stride. We came here not knowing what to expect. We know how good they are now. It will be up to us as coaches to try to find a way to stop them next time. It’s a funny game, high school football. Things can change a lot in a week or two.”