Mace and sidekick Kyle Flaherty spent four years sharing the load of leading Oak Hill. Flaherty gave the Raiders a piggyback ride to the 2013 Class D title. Saturday afternoon, in defense of that crown, it was Mace’s turn.

Three touchdowns and 341 all-purpose yards later, Mace and the Raiders repeated with a convincing 41-21 victory over Maine Central Institute at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“Never in a million years,” Mace said when asked if he ever dreamed of such a day on the state’s main stage. “It’s amazing. I’ll never forget it.”

Mace carried 23 times for 240 yards, made two receptions for 44 yards and returned a punt for 57 yards, notching the hat trick with a touchdown of each variety.

Oak Hill (11-1) backed up last year’s 42-35 win over Bucksport and claimed its third overall state title.

Flaherty rushed for 92 of his 117 yards in the second half. Dalton Therrien completed 5 of 10 passes for 166 yards and two scores to launch the Raiders, who rolled up 509 yards of total offense against the previously undefeated Huskies (10-1).

“The best players, the brightest players, shine on the biggest stage. Alex and Kyle have both done it for our team this year and in years past,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “I don’t know who’s in charge of players of the year and all that, but those two guys could play for any team in the state. They’re unbelievable football players.”

And while Oak Hill’s leaders blossomed in the spotlight one last time, MCI’s marquee players couldn’t stay on the field.

Running backs Jonathan Santiago and Eric Hathaway sat out most of the second quarter with leg injuries and were non-factors thereafter. Fullback Alex Bertrand hobbled to the sideline on multiple occasions.

MCI was making its first appearance in the final since a 2000 loss to Winthrop. The Huskies were winless two years ago.

“We’ve come a long way. We certainly came up a little short today, but we played a good football team,” MCI coach Tom Bertrand said. “We had some guys go down, and that’s been a problem for us all year. Things didn’t go our way. I couldn’t ask for a better group of young men to do battle with week in and week out, including this week.”

Two Mace touchdowns in a third-quarter span of 3:01 expanded what was a tenuous, 14-13 Oak Hill advantage.

Levi Buteau intercepted Greg Vigue to end MCI’s initial drive of the second half. Mace took the handoff or pitch on five of six plays to set up fourth-and-2 at the Huskies’ 37.

Therrien dropped back and found Mace darting down the sideline. He tiptoed around the chalk for the final five yards to claim his second TD of the game.

“We knew that they had good (defensive backs) but that they were going to be aggressive, and we have good wide receivers who can go up there and make a play,” said Therrien, who also connected with Kyle Tervo for a 55-yard score in the first half.

Oak Hill lost the ball twice, including a would-be touchdown, in a bizarre sequence that saw turnovers on three consecutive plays.

Mace put the ball on the ground and into the hands of Dillon Fitts, but Samson Lacroix returned the favor by taking it away from Eli Bussell.

Therrien went deep to Jonah Martin on the next play. In his attempt to reach for the pylon, however, Martin coughed up the ball. It bounced out of the end zone for a touchback.

A run for no gain and two incomplete passes abbreviated the Huskies’ ensuing drive. Mace cradled Vigue’s punt on the fly and broke away from multiple tackles on an unforgettable journey to the end zone.

“I saw everyone blocking for me,” Mace said. “My whole family out there. It was great.

“I’ve never seen an athlete like him,” added Therrien. “I’m going to miss playing with him.

Mace got Oak Hill started with an electrifying, game-tying, 80-yard dash in the first quarter.

“It gave us momentum,” he said of the run. “We wanted to come back strong. We didn’t want it to happen that way.”

While the Huskies successfully bottled up Flaherty, Mace had 150 yards on the ground at the break.

Those heroics rallied the Raiders from a disastrous start. Four of their first seven plays went for lost yardage.

The first series ended in a fake punt, with Flaherty stopped a yard shy of the stick just past midfield. A snap over the head of Therrien backed up the Raiders to their own 2 on their next possession.

Tucked in between: A 10-play, 54-yard, hurry-up scoring drive by the Huskies. No play gained fewer than two yards or more than seven until Vigue’s 10-yard TD pass to Austin Tolman, who tipped the ball to himself for the score with 6:22 remaining in the quarter.

Tolman finished with eight catches for 63 yards and all three MCI touchdowns.

Mace made the third-down tackle to get Oak Hill an essential stop on MCI’s second sequence, but Tolman buried Vigue’s punt at the 1-yard line.

Four plays and 99 yards later, the Raiders were in the end zone. Mace covered most of it after Therrien hit him in stride with the option pitch, beating the Huskies to the corner with a burst of speed and then squirming away from Tolman at the MCI 40.

“We didn’t have an answer for him. We’ve got to get to the film and see what that was all about. They found something they liked, and they hit it,” Bertrand said. “He’s a heck of a player. I’ve been saying it all week, (Mace and Flaherty) are the two best players in Western Maine Class D, and they showed it tonight.”

Adam Merrill’s PAT kick knotted it with 1:54 left.

MCI capped a 16-play, 70-yard march with a trick play to reclaim the lead.

Again, the Huskies advanced in small chunks, converting four consecutive third downs. Tervo took down Tolman after a 2-yard grab from Vigue to force fourth-and-5 from the 21.

Vigue pitched to Hathaway, who coasted to a stop and floated the halfback option pass over the drawn-in secondary to a wide-open Tolman for the score. MCI misfired on the extra point.

But with the Huskies’ ranks rapidly depleting and Mace attracting all the attention, MCI bit on a Therrien fake and left Tervo unattended for a 55-yard TD with 7:31 to go in the half.

“We felt we had to keep their defense on the field and get ours off the field,” Doucette said. “We have a lot of athletes. We felt that we would have to take advantage of that, and that we would have to throw the ball at times.”

Flaherty’s 6-yard TD run put Oak Hill up 34-13 with 10:15 left.

Vigue drove MCI to a score against the Raiders’ prevent defense, hitting Tolman from 9 yards away. Oak Hill answered with a patented clock-killing sojourn, capped by Chad Merrill’s 4-yard run up the middle with 1:08 to go.

Merrill then picked off Vigue for good measure.

“There’s a lot more pressure (defending the title), but I felt like we came in as underdogs, and that gave us more momentum,” Mace said. “We love being underdogs.”

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