2018 H.S. Football Preview Oak Hill growing stronger together

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Oak Hill quarterback Gavin Rawstron will play an important role in the Raider offense. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AP

Oak Hill quarterback Gavin Rawstron will play an important role in the Raider offense. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

WALES — Oak Hill’s seniors were freshmen when the Raiders won the last of three straight state championships in 2015.

The upperclassmen from those state titles have long since graduated, but this year’s seniors are bringing back their former leaders’ influence.

“A lot more communication from the senior captains to the younger kids,” sophomore quarterback Gavin Rawstron said. “Like, some younger kids don’t have rides, seniors are always there to pick them up. Even if the kids are not awake, they’ll go and knock on the door, wake them up, bring them to practice. I like the leadership this year.”

One of the seniors, Reid Cote, said the 2015 seniors set the tone of not only hard work, but also support and unity.

“Then the past two years, that just kind of dropped down, we didn’t really have the leadership,” Cote said. “And then I think our senior class is bringing that back up. We’ve learned the championship leadership, and then the not-championship leadership.”

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Senior center and linebacker Ethan Richard said the increased team chemistry should help the Raiders improve upon their 3-6 record from 2017.

“If you can start with the small things like leadership and picking people up and becoming a team, maybe that can correlate to things, as in success,” Richard said.

“Chemistry is a big deal with this group,” head coach Stacen Doucette said. “The glass is always half full with this group. As a coach, you always want to coach these type of teams. No Debbie Downers, they’re all positive kids.”

Most of Oak Hill’s position groups contain a mixture of experienced and inexperienced players. The key to the season, Doucette said, will be how the young players progress.

“I think our chemistry is going to be fine, our senior leadership’s going to be fine,” Doucette said, “I think our older kids are going to fine, it’s how can our youth handle becoming everyday players and stepping up.”

One spot the Raiders seem set for the present and future is quarterback. Rawstron had a solid freshman season under center. He’s taking on more of a leadership role, and he’s a little bigger and much better, particularly at reading defenses.

“More confidence,” Cote said. “Coming in as a freshman, that was not easy. But another year of confidence.”

Rawston had a nice season throwing the ball in 2017, but he said running will be the Raiders’ strength.

“We’re going to be a powerhouse run team this year,” Rawstron said.

Cote is back at fullback, where he’ll be the lead blocker for a trio of tailbacks: fellow senior Gabe Bergeron and sophomores Sam Lindsay and Quentin Pelkey.

“We are very young at the tailback position, but we’re excited about our tailbacks,” Doucette said. “All of them are good athletes, and they all bring certain strengths to the team.”

They’ll be running behind an offensive line with several upperclassmen, including Richard and senior tight end Ethan Barnett, though not all have a lot of varsity experience.

The Raiders lost some standout receivers to graduation — most notably the tall, physical and sure-handed Darryn Bailey. This year’s group is young, but is expected to improve during the course of the season.

“It’s hard to replace him, but everyone’s catching on,” Rawstron said. “Very quick this year.”

Oak Hill’s defense will be strongest up the middle, Doucette said, with older players on the line and three experienced players at linebacker. The secondary is young, but shows promise.

“I think the defense, we have more experienced players coming back than on offense,” Doucette said. “A lot more kids played on defense, and the kids that we’re plugging in as replacements are young but they’re also pretty aggressive and good.”

Oak Hill quarterback Gavin Rawstron will play an important role in the Raider offense. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AP

Oak Hill quarterback Gavin Rawstron will play an important role in the Raider offense. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Oak Hill center Ethan Richard barks out commands for the offensive line during Thursday afternoon’s practice. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AP

Oak Hill center Ethan Richard barks out commands for the offensive line during Thursday afternoon’s practice. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Oak Hill football coach Stacen Doucette gives one of his players some pointers during Thursday’s practice. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AP

Oak Hill football coach Stacen Doucette gives one of his players some pointers during Thursday’s practice. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Oak Hill football coach Stacen Doucette watches a drill during Thursday’s practice. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)
AP

Oak Hill football coach Stacen Doucette watches a drill during Thursday’s practice. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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