Oak Hill’s Caleb Treadwell, top, celebrates after diving through the mud as teammate Gabriel Bergeron, bottom, takes his turn at the end of Saturday’s playoff game against Lisbon in overtime. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
Bad weather is often considered the great equalizer in football, and it’s not unkind to apply that axiom to seventh-seeded Oak Hill’s upset of No. 2 Lisbon in Saturday’s 6-0 Class D South quarterfinal mud bowl at Thompson Field.
But credit the Raiders for making the most of the opportunity Mother Nature provided them by preparing for the sloppy conditions with a tough week of practice.
“I think it definitely helped us,” senior linebacker Gabe Bergeron said. “We practice through rain or shine. We go through anything unless its thunder and lightning. It helped us. We prepared well.”
“We did a lot of ‘what-ifs,'” coach Stacen Doucette said. “When the weather forecast came, we practiced for this situation. We did a lot of things that we wouldn’t normally do. We did some things that we knew we’d have to do in bad weather to plan ahead. They were subtle, but we still did them.”
Doucette cited a play the Raiders used in the second half where they lined up in punt formation on fourth-and-short, then shifted sophomore QB Gavin Rawstron under center, who ultimately drew Lisbon offsides for a key first down. Moving the chains gave the Raiders the rare opportunity to shift field position on the Greyhounds.
The preparation allowed the Raiders to enjoy an upset win on their rival’s home field.
“It was crazy. You dream about this when you’re a kid, playing in the mud. It was awesome,” Bergeron said.
Next up for the Raiders is a trip to No. 6 Madison, which pulled off an upset of its own, 40-12, at No. 3 Mountain Valley last Friday.
The Bulldogs won a 47-34 shootout with the Raiders on Sep. 28 in Madison. But Rawstron thinks Madison will encounter a more resilient Oak Hill defense in the semifinals.
“After letting up a bunch of touchdowns when we’re down in the red zone, knowing that we can stop a team that’s a powerhouse running team like Lisbon, we’re coming into the next game strong,” Rawstron said.
They will be stronger in terms of numbers. Doucette said he expects to have the roster at full strength after an entire season of being short-handed due to injuries or academic ineligibility.
“This is the first time we were at 95 percent. Next week, we’ll be at 100 percent for the first time this year,” he said. “I think we’re an okay team. I think we’re hard to handle sometimes.”
HORNETS COME OUT BUZZING
No. 1 Leavitt left little doubt in its Class C South quarterfinal against No. 8 Lake Region, roaring out to a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and doubling it by halftime before cruising to a 56-0 win.
“We wanted to come out and start fast and got points from the defense right off the bat,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said.
Stephen Gray’s 40-yard interception return for a touchdown on the Lakers’ first possession got the scoreboard operator’s fingers limbered up for a first-half onslaught that included all four of sophomore quarterback Wyatt Hathaway’s touchdown passes, including two to Cole Morin.
Hathaway said the offense looked sharp thanks in part to an improved performance by the offensive line, which had struggled at times in a 27-0 win over Gardiner the week before in Gardiner.
The defense considered its stellar season, posting its second shutout in a row.
The Hornets will host No. 4 Cape Elizabeth in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Libby Field. The Capers scored the most points of any Leavitt opponent, 20, in the Sep. 14 game in Cape Elizabeth, but Leavitt pulled away late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to win, 42-20.
Capers QB Andrew Hartel threw 47 times in that game, but Hathaway said the Capers have altered their approach in recent weeks.
“You can really seee they are recomitting to running the football out of the wing T, but they’ll still line up in shotgun and sling it,” Hathaway said. “We will be preparing for both looks.”
One adjustment the Hornets will have to make on pass defense, Hathaway said, is accounting for senior tight end Matt Conley, who had nine catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the first game. Junior wide receiver Matt Laughlin is another of Hartel’s favorite targets.
What transpired at Griffin Field in Livermore Falls on Friday night is a solid indicator that the fifth-ranked Ramblers (5-4) are primed to face top-ranked Wells (9-0) in a Class D South semifinal on Nov. 2.
The fast and quick Spruce Mountain Phoenix steamrolled the Ramblers, 36-6 on Aug. 31. But the Ramblers didn’t forget the drubbing they took and returned the favor, overwhelming the Phoenix 38-0.
There is no question the Ramblers have improved during the regular season and it explains why they heading to another round of the playoffs.
“It is a huge confidence boost because the kids know that we have been telling that we can beat anybody if we play a solid game,” Winthrop coach Dave. St. Hilaire said. “This kind of showed themselves, hey, you know what, we beat a good team like that by that amount. We can take on a Wells and not be intimidated.”
The Ramblers played Wells during the regular season and made the Warriors work for their 36-18 win.
“We were ahead 12-7 late in the first half and were a dropped touchdown away from being down 30-24 with five minutes left in the game,” St. Hilaire said. “We played them well enough that if a couple of things had gone our way, we could have beat them.
“Obviously, we’ve gotten better and they have gotten better. Who knows?”
EDDIES WERE READY
Edward Little coach Dave Sterling has little to complain about in terms of his team’s execution late in games.
The Red Eddies have won three game in a row, all by late fourth-quarter comebacks.
The latest, Friday night’s 18-13 win over Lewiston in their Class A North first round game, was fairly familiar, and not just because it came against the same team the Eddies rallied to beat the previous week, 26-22.
Senior QB Leighton Girardin, who scored the game-winning touchdown in the previous game on a 38-yard touchdown with 52.4 seconds left, scored from four yards out with 1:42 remaining on virtually the same play to put EL in front for good.
“We did really well down at the goal line. We ran a spread offense and just ran up the middle like we did at the end of the game just like last week,” Sterling said. “Leighton obviously managed the game extremely well at the end to get us the win. He’s done that in the closing seconds of the last three weeks.”
The Eddies still needed their defense to finish the game, which they did when Tyler Jalbert forced a fumble recovered by Josh Kaiser with 55 seconds left.
Jalbert, a junior nose guard, has seen his role increase lately with the season-ending ankle injury to senior captain Kevin Lachance
“He wasn’t really in the lineup three weeks ago and he’s stepped up and played extremely well,” Sterling said.
Sterling also singled out the efforts of senior linebacker Kevin Haskell as a playmaker on the edge of the defense and junior wide receiver Ricky Cote, who for the second week in a row completed a key pass on a trick play.
“Ricky Cote thought he had a dislocated shoulder at halftime,” Sterling said. “The trainer looked at it and said he had a stinger in his arm and he went back in and gutted it out and did extremely well at the end of the game.”
Finally, Sterling highlighted junior lineman Gunnar Winslow, whose father, Al, was diagnosed with brain cancer earlier in the week. Edward Little and Lewiston teamed up to raise money for Winslow’s family at the game through a bake sale, a 50/50 drawing and donations.
“Gunnar Winslow overcame so much,” Sterling said. “With what he’s gone through this week, and for the team to bond around him and what the community did, the people coming out tonight, the guy who won the 50/50 giving it back to the Winslow family.”
Edward Little officials announced approximately $6,250 was raised on Friday night.