So when a turnover put Bucksport within 18 yards of tying Saturday’s Class D championship and brought Oak Hill to the brink of blowing a late two-touchdown lead, the Raiders knew a little more sweat could turn 31 years of frustration into joy.

“We knew how close we were,” senior co-captain Luke Washburn said. “We knew we had to work still … We stuck it through. We always say ‘peaks and valleys.’ That was a little valley, but we worked through it and now we’re at a peak and it’s amazing.”

Kyle Flaherty rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries and Washburn sacked Bucksport QB Matthew Stewart with 1:50 left to clinch a 42-35 victory at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

The first Class D championship game since 1986 produced Oak Hill’s first state title, also won in Class D, since 1982.

“This is about this team now, so now we can say two state championships,” second-year coach Stacen Doucette said. “I’m just excited, speechless.”

Oak Hill handed the ball to Flaherty on nearly as many offensive plays as Bucksport ran the whole game. The Raiders ran 73 plays from scrimmage to the Golden Bucks’ 45, and held a 24-15 advantage in first downs.

“They ran the ball very well,” Bucksport coach Joel Sankey said. “That No. 44 (Flaherty) is tough.”

“We were trying to wear them down, obviously. We also knew we had to throw the ball, too, to mix it up,” said Flaherty, a junior.

Oak Hill QB Parker Asselin finished 6-for-9 for 131 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a one-yard touchdown. Alex Mace caught both of the touchdown passes and finished with three receptions for 106 yards.

After a back-and-forth first three quarters, Oak Hill (10-2) took the lead for good on Flaherty’s third touchdown run, a three-yard burst, with 4:57 remaining.

Bucksport (10-1) pulled within a touchdown when QB Matthew Stewart connected with Josh Gray on a 25-yard touchdown pass with 2:55 remaining. Oak Hill fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Bucksport recovered at the Raiders’ 18.

But the Raiders’ defense ultimately forced the Golden Bucks into a 4th-and-11. Stewart dropped back to pass but soon found himself in the clutches of senior defensive end Luke Washburn for a sack that turned the ball over to Oak Hill with 1:50 remaining.

“We knew it was going to be a pass. We kept saying in the huddle ‘This is the play. This is the play,'” said Washburn, who had 12 sacks coming into Saturday. “I figured I’d get my opportunity at some point during the game and I was glad it came finally.”

Bucksport forced the Raiders into a 4th-and-2 and looked to get the ball back one more time when Oak Hill initially lined up to punt with 24 seconds left. But the Raiders shifted Asselin under center and his hard count pulled the Golden Bucks offsides, giving the Raiders a first down and the title after they took a knee.

The Raiders were all too happy to keep the ball out of the hands of Stewart, a junior who completed 11 of 15 passes for 141 yards and four touchdowns.

“We knew they had a lot of speed, a lot of really, really talented players, and we knew they could throw the ball at will,” Flaherty said.

Bucksport gashed the Raiders for big plays on first down early in the contest. That set up a 32-yard touchdown run by Gabe Stearns and Stewart’s 24-yard TD pass on 4th-and-2 to Jack Cyr as the Bucks took a 14-7 lead.

But Oak Hill answered with two 16-play scoring drives in the first half, the second of which put it ahead, 21-14, when Asselin scored on a one-yard QB sneak with 1:48 left in the half.

Helped by a pass interference penalty, Bucksport was able to respond when Stewart found a wide open Gray (five catches, 87 yards, two TDs) near the left pylon for the game-tying score with 0.2 of a second left before intermission.

The Raiders’ defense did a much better job on first down in the second half. Mike Pease’s strip sack and fumble recovery on the first play of the Bucks’ second series set Oak Hill up at Bucksport’s 14. Seven plays later, Flaherty scored from a yard out. Adam Merrill, who was 7-for-7 on extra points, made it 28-21 with 5:13 left in the third.

“When you get into that second-and-long, it really disrupts the rhythm,” Sankey said.”They made some adjustments and got us out of ours.”

Stewart still brought about the game’s fourth tie with a 12-yard TD pass to Nic Bishop with 1:52 left in the third.

Oak Hill, which went without a huddle for much of the game to make its long drives even more taxing on the Bucks’ defense, took the lead for good on its next possession. After running Flaherty seven times and Mace twice on the first nine plays of the drive, the Raiders were forced to go to the air on 4th-and-9 from the 28. That’s when Asselin hooked up with Mace for their second touchdown pass for a 35-28 lead with 10:48 left.

“Parker was yelling at me. He wanted to run that play all game,” Doucette said. “I told him we’re not doing it in the red zone, but I said, ‘You got it. You carried us here,’ and he did it.”

The Raiders forced a three-and-out, then padded their lead with 12-play drive featuring a drive-extending catch for a first down by Kyle Tervo on 3rd-and-15 and Flaherty’s third touchdown.

“Every time (Flaherty) goes on a long run, you would expect him to be pounding his chest, ‘Me, me, me. I’m excited I just great had a great run. Every time he comes back (to the huddle) he says, ‘I’m doing this for you guys. Thank you guys for blocking. Great block.’ That’s the first thing he says,” Washburn said. “I don’t know how he can be so selfless, but I think that’s why he’s so successful.”

The same can be said for all of the 2013 Oak Hill Raiders, state champions.


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