POLAND — Oak Hill freshman quarterback Gavin Rawstron had a memorable first start Friday.
The Poland Knights? Not so much.
The Knights gave momentum away early, and by the time they got it back it was too late. Oak Hill ran out to a 28-0 lead and held on for a 28-14 victory.
Aaron Paradis returned the opening kickoff 22 yards for Poland (0-1), then ran the ball twice for 16 yards to put the Knights past midfield. But on his second carry he fumbled, turning a good start on offense into an early turnover.
“We had momentum, and obviously that took it away from us,” Poland coach Gene Keene said. “And they seized it, scored (28) straight points.”
The Raiders (1-0) took advantage of the gift, needing just nine plays and 69 yards to get on the scoreboard. Cruz Poirier did the heavy lifting, running seven times for 41 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown run, but Rawstron completed his first two career passes as well.
“Everyone was kind of nervous, first game. But after that first drive on defense, we came out, everyone felt pretty good,” Rawstron said. “All the seniors have my back, telling me that I’m ready to go.”
Rawstron was more of a factor on offense on Oak Hill’s second drive, which came after halting another promising looking Poland drive. Rawstron completed five of seven passes on the drive, which was capped off early in the second quarter by another Poirier touchdown run, then threw his first career touchdown pass to Darryn Bailey on the next drive.
“That felt terrific,” Rawstron said. “It does make it easier when they run great routes, and Darryn has that great catch in the end zone.”
Rawstron finished the game 12-of-17 for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
“I think he had a good game,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “I think he ran the team well. No turnovers.”
The Raiders led 21-0 at halftime, then added to that lead on their second drive of the second half, when Rawstron hit Bailey in stride for a 23-yard score on fourth down.
The game soon took a turn, however. The Oak Hill defense forced its fourth punt of the game following Rawstron’s second scoring pass, then the Raiders’ offense went back to work driving. But deep in Poland territory Sam Benedict forced a fumble by Samuel Kelsen, and Tyler Tucci scooped up the loose ball and ran 80 yards the other way for a score.
After a Raider punt, the Knights put together their first scoring drive of the game. A 60-yard pass from Brady Downing to Gawain Tibbetts highlighted the drive, but it was a 1-yard plunge by Paradis that capped it. Downing then found Zach Cote on the two-point conversion to make it a 28-14 game.
The Knights recovered the ensuing onside kick, but Austin Pierce intercepted Downing three plays into the drive to squash the Poland comeback.
“He knows he’s supposed to throw it in the stands if that guy’s standing there,” Keene said. “But those are the kind of mistakes that if we can eliminate those, maybe it’s a one-score game at the end.”
Downing finished 9-of-16 for 148 yards, while Paradis ran the ball 17 times for 74 yards.
Poirier led an Oak Hill rushing attack that accumulated 226 yards with 164 yards on 28 carries.
“All we ask him is to control the ball, hit the hole, and do the best he can,” Doucette said. “He did very well today.”
The Knights were able to stop Poirier inches short of a first down to deny a potential late scoring drive.
“They were driving, we hung in their, showed a little pride and stopped them from getting one more touchdown. That’s a character-builder right there,” Keene said. “We did some real positive things tonight, but I told the kids ‘you never want to be satisfied with a loss.’ Be satisfied that we did some good things, but we got to build on those now.”