Ain’t high school football crazy?

It sure isn’t predictable. If we didn’t learn that last weekend, Dirigo drilled the point home on a windy Saturday afternoon in front of 1,000 fans, about 900 of whom thought they were there to witness another Oak Hill demolition project.

Two weeks ago, Oak Hill crushed Dirigo, 33-0, in Dixfield. The Raiders didn’t just beat the Cougars, they ground them into dust and embarrassed them on their home field on senior night. Running a double wing with their big, senior-laden offensive line and a cadre of talented running backs, they moved the ball at will. The defense was just as dominant, winning every battle up front and smothering Dirigo’s running game.

“Two weeks ago, we got outcoached. We stuck with one thing and things didn’t work,” Dirigo coach Dave Crutchfield said. “This week we made changes just for this double wing defense. The kids, when we started showing them, their eyes were lighting up, like, ‘We can do that. We can do that.'”

Crutchfield and his staff put six men on the defensive line, moving their defensive ends in to have twin sets of defensive tackles in the middle.

Most, if not all, of those six linemen was giving up anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds to the man lined up opposite him. And most, if not all, could probably recall being run over by the man in front of him two weeks earlier.

Dirigo wanted Oak Hill to know that wasn’t going to happen again on Saturday. The offense delivered the message immediately, if subtly, by running quarterback Brett Whittemore on sneaks on its first two plays. The two runs gained a total of four yards, but by taking that play straight out of Oak Hill’s own playbook, the Cougars made it known that they weren’t going to back down from the trench fight to come.

The defense continued to pound home the message in not-so-subtle fashion after that. It forced a fumble on Oak Hill’s first possession. Then it stopped the Raiders on fourth down on two straight forays deep into their own territory

“You make a fourth-down stop against that double wing, you’re winning,” Crutchfield said.

Oak Hill QB Parker Asselin had some success throwing into the flats, but the Cougars were willing to give that up in exchange for stopping the counters and off-tackle plays that tore it apart two weeks ago.

When they stopped Asselin inches short of a first down at their own 8 and went into halftime locked in a 0-0 tie, their confidence soared.

“When a team beats you 33-0, you realize they’re a pretty good team. Then when you play with them the way we played with them, you realize you’re a good team,” senior defensive lineman Cliff Boynton said.

Boynton was being a bit modest. Dirigo’s players have won enough playoff games and big meets in a variety of sports to know you don’t get as far as they’ve gotten on smoke and mirrors. More importantly, they know the slate is wiped clean when the post-season starts. Getting steamrolled by a bigger, stronger team two weeks ago only matters as much as you let it matter.

To the Cougars, it didn’t matter.

“The fact of them being big wasn’t a major factor to us today. We already knew how big they were, how strong they were,” senior defensive tackle Zack White said. “We just played smashmouth football with them.”

“We’re smaller and we’re quicker,” Boynton said. “On the offensive line, we go for the angle block so that we can move the body. On the defensive line, it was just smash them and then hold them at the line of scrimmage so that they can’t make a hole.”

The Raiders made enough holes to score early in the second half. Undaunted, Dirigo’s defensive line switched to the other side of the ball and did what it does best, giving Spencer Trenoweth enough daylight so the senior tailback can do what he does best, which is win just about every footrace he gets into on a football field. His 69-yard burst and Nelson Pepin’s extra point gave the Cougars a lead their defense wouldn’t relinquish.

Dirigo stopped Oak Hill twice more just past its side of the 50 yard line before Trenoweth went into overdrive again with a 52-yard touchdown jaunt and a 13-6 lead. The defense clinched it when Thomas Barnett knocked down Asselin’s 4th and 9 pass intended for Cody Collingwood with 1:18 remaining.

Oak Hill nearly reached the 200-yard mark in rushing yards Saturday. As opposed to two weeks ago when it could have named its final offensive totals, it had to earn everything it got Saturday.

Making the Raiders work for every inch of turf was a matter of pride for Dirigo. But this wasn’t just redemption for the Cougars. It was proof of what a team that even Crutchfield has said is a bit flighty at times can do when it keeps its intensity and focus for not only Friday night/Saturday afternoon, but the rest of the week as well.

“We’ve never played a full four quarters,” Pepin said. “This is our first full four-quarter game that we’ve played.”

‘”I wish I knew how to turn that switch on all the time,” Crutchfield said.

You’ve got to believe the lights will be on all next week, coach. Dirigo kids know the final score from Sept. 8 — Dirigo 32, Winslow 21, is irrelevant.

And, as they continue to prove, whether it’s winter, spring or fall, they know when it’s time to win.


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