WALES – Maine high school football’s two great equalizers, foul weather and the double wing offense, bolstered big, burly Maranacook’s Class D West playoff upset hopes most of Saturday afternoon.

Oak Hill’s two table-tilters, Alex Mace and Kyle Flaherty, ultimately were too much to stop.

Mace rushed for 101 of his game-high 118 yards in the second half, while Flaherty scored the Raiders’ lone touchdown and cleared the 4,000-yard hurdle for his career in a 7-6 quarterfinal win.

“First half, it gave us motivation to play that much better in the second half. All the seniors got it together. We just had to make a comeback,” Mace said. “The conditions were definitely in their favor today. We’re more of a fast-paced team.”

Flaherty scored the go-ahead touchdown from a yard out with 1:18 remaining in the third quarter, after a Maranacook encroachment penalty on fourth down gave Oak Hill first-and-goal.

No. 3 Oak Hill (8-1) survived to defend its state championship for at least one more week. The Raiders travel to No. 2 Dirigo on Friday night.

“They played very well today,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said of Maranacook. “They’re a physical team. We said that all week. We just found a way to stay the course.”

Using the same tightly packed double wing formation Oak Hill often embraces, sixth-seeded Maranacook (3-5) kept the ball for more than seven minutes to open the game.

Mixing it up with junior Zach Lacasse and sophomores Drew Davis and Isaiah Weston, the Black Bears drove 72 yards in 14 plays, converting four third downs. On the last one, Kyle Morand joined the party and slogged nine yards through the middle for the touchdown.

“That’s what we talked about all week with the kids,” Maranacook coach Joe Emery said. “We’ve been really good on our first drive in a lot of games. We just haven’t punched it in. That was something we needed to do today.”

In a play that loomed much larger by the end of the wet, cold, windy afternoon, Oak Hill stopped Maranacook’s two-point conversion rush inches shy of the goal line.

Oak Hill’s defense, led by Samson Lacroix, Connor Elwell, Garrett Gile, Mace and Flaherty, held the Black Bears to 27 total yards and two first downs for the remainder of the day.

“We did expect it,” Mace said. “We knew it was going to be physical. We knew it was going to be a very hard fight.”

The Raiders saw three opportunities on the Black Bears’ side of midfield come up empty in the first half, including two in the red zone.

Oak Hill’s opening drive ended with a bobbled exchange on the punt. Josh Murphy tackled Levi Buteau to put the Black Bears back in business.

In the second quarter, Morand knocked down Dalton Therrien’s pass to Mace on fourth-and-5 from the 10, and Brandyn Michaud and Morand batted away consecutive aerials to halt another drive at the 25 to end the half.

“The tackling was great,” Emery said. “Just before the half we had some great coverage. Probably six or seven passes inside the 20 that we knocked down, which was huge.”

Maranacook held Flaherty in check early, with Mace picking up only four carries before intermission. Out of the break, Mace lugged it on seven out of eight carries, but yet another Raiders’ excursion stopped at the Black Bears’ 33.

The Raiders’ defense held three-and-out on the ensuing series, though, and Oak Hill responded with a 14-play, 65-yard gut check to notch the winning score.

Mace had gains of 12, 15 and 11 yards along the way. After the crucial Maranacook penalty, Flaherty smashed his way nine yards to the 1, then finished the job.

Adam Merrill booted the all-important extra point.

“We have different running backs with different styles,” Doucette said. “Alex is hit the hole 1,000 miles an hour and see what happens. Kyle is more finesse. We always go with the hot hand. We have two special running backs.”

Flaherty finished with 29 carries for 88 yards, giving him 4,005 for his career. Mace needs only 14 yards next week to top the 4,000 milestone in the all-purpose category.

Maranacook drove close to midfield before being forced to punt early in the fourth quarter. Oak Hill subsequently drained nearly seven minutes off the clock.

The Black Bears got it back at their own 20 with 2:28 to go, but Kyle Tervo picked off Weston to seal it.

“I’m really proud of the kids. They played their hearts out,” Emery said. “I think (the conditions) did favor us a little bit. Flaherty and Mace really couldn’t cut at all. It favored the bigger team. They just have a little more athleticism than we do.”

“I like to cut back, and every time I’d cut back, I’d fall,” Mace said. “The line really pulled through today. Plus Flaherty, amazing block every time. Chad (Merrill), Jonah (Martin), everyone.”

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