The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Oak Hill senior is the player every opposing coach looks for first when breaking down game film of the Raiders. On a team with a savvy veteran quarterback, two dynamic running backs, playmaking linebackers and  rugged offensive and defensive lines, Washburn is the individual who must be accounted for in order for any game plan to succeed against the 7-2 Raiders, who host No. 3 Lisbon in the Western D semifinals at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

As a defensive end, Washburn strikes fear in quarterbacks and running backs with his combination of size, strength and speed.

He demands almost constant double-teaming, which, on the occasion he doesn’t beat them, leaves others free to make plays. He is big and fast enough to cover two holes, which allows the Raiders to be aggressive with other personnel.

The Campbell Conference doesn’t track statistical leaders, but if it did, his 11 sacks would certainly rank among the league leaders. The number of times he’s double-teamed would likely dwarf the rest of the conference.

Washburn relishes the attention.

“It’s fun. Honestly, I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. It’s fun to see on more than one guy. Sometimes I don’t win the battle, but when I do, it feels good.”

Knowing the spotlight is on their imposing co-captain, the Raiders move Washburn around on defense, exploiting matchups, creating confusion and spreading the intimidation factor around.

“We feel that it gives us an advantage. The offense needs to identify where he is, and when he’s in a different spot, that should present some problems,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said.

“When he gets going in a direction, it’s tough to stop him,” Doucette said. “He’s strong in his reach, which is really underestimated. He’s 6-foot-3, so the long arm reach does help.”

Even with his impressive statistics — 63 tackles (47 solo, 16 assists), four fumble recoveries, 11 tackles for loss not counting sacks — Washburn’s reach can’t be completely quantified.

A three-year starter, he originally played on the inside. This year, the Raiders put him on the edge so he could become a more disruptive force in the backfield.

When Doucette informed Washburn of the move, his eyes lit up. Defensive end was where he’d wanted to play all along.

“Obviously, I’m in a position more to capitalize on those opportunities,” he said. “I don’t think about (going after the quarterback). It’s just something that’s in me. I love to do it. It’s my main goal when I come out here. It’s not necessarily to catch touchdowns or to get the best block. It’s to get the quarterback down. That’s what I have the most fun doing it.”

He’s among the best at catching touchdowns and blocking, too.

As with his defensive role, his role on offense has evolved over the years. A tackle as a sophomore, Washburn moved to tight end when Doucette took over as coach. And just like the move to defensive end, he was excited because he’d dreamed of playing the position since he started playing football in seventh grade.

“I met (Doucette) for the first time ever in the weight room one afternoon, and his first question for me is ‘Have you ever played tight end?’ My grin was from ear to ear. I was so excited, even just to have the conversation about playing tight end,” Washburn said.

“When you give a young man a carrot, give them a reason to work towards something, you’ll be amazed what kids can do,” Doucette said. “Once we said we saw him as a tight end, he went to work. He did the rest.”

Dedicating himself to the weight room and working with quarterback and best friend Parker Asselin on pass catching after school, Washburn improved his strength, speed and quickness and became one of the best tight ends in the conference.

Asselin took full advantage of having one of the biggest receiving targets in the state.

“Luke’s a target anywhere on the field, but especially in the end zone. It’s a big kid in a small area,” Asselin said.

Washburn’s role changed yet again for this season. He moved to H-back, a cross between a tight end and fullback.

From that position, he can pave the way for running backs Kyle Flaherty and Alex Mace to anywhere on the field. As a tight end, he could only block the side where he lined up.

The new role meant leaving his dream job, but Washburn soon saw its advantages.

“It was frustrating at the beginning of the season trying to face that, but me and coach talked a lot about what this season was going to mean for me and how my role on the team was going to have to be, and it’s to be a blocker first and a receiver second,” he said. “I like it a lot because I get to be involved in plays no matter where they’re headed.”

Usually they’re headed whichever way Washburn is going.

“If Luke played line, he’d be the best lineman in the conference,” Doucette said. “We make no bones about it, we run behind him. He’s going to get his block and then some.”

While he switched positions to optimize the running game, he still gets his share of passes from Asselin. He had a 19-yard touchdown catch when Oak Hill last played Lisbon two weeks ago and a 15-yard TD reception in the quarterfinals against Boothbay last week.

The best friends met after that Boothbay game to reflect on their victory and talk about avoiding a second-round upset similar to the one the Raiders suffered last year against Dirigo. Washburn, who has drawn interest from the University of Maine and several others to suit up for them next fall, has more plans for this season.

“We were sitting by ourselves just looking out at the field and thinking about how it was our last session of playoffs,” he said. “We made a deal, (our last game) is not going to be this one. Whether it comes down to us two or the whole team, we’re not going to let it be this one.”

“I think that deal is going to stand for the rest of the season,” he said. “We’re going  to keep that promise to each other, that at least we’ll do everything for each other to keep each other playing.”


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