Still, there was something special about Oak Hill’s encore journey to the Class D title.

The novelty has worn off, but the thrill isn’t gone. By overcoming significant injuries, road playoff games and the pressure of being everyone’s target, the Raiders made the most of the opportunity to show everyone they were no one-hit wonder.

“It was a little different,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette. “We had to be more creative at times. We weren’t as physical, but this team is a good team. We’re very athletic.”

Everyone knew about Alex Mace and Kyle Flaherty, the indomitable tandem who unofficially concluded their career with 8,996 all-purpose yards.

On Saturday, however, in a 41-21 win over Maine Central Institute at Fitzpatrick Stadium, the Raiders chose the perfect time and place to show that they were more than a two-man show.

Dalton Therrien threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns, one a 57-yard bomb to oft-overlooked wide receiver Kyle Tervo. Levi Buteau and Chad Merrill each had an interception. Samson Lacroix, Mikey Pease and Adam Merrill were sensational against MCI’s vaunted running game.

“I promise you one thing: We have the biggest heart on any football field any time we step on it, and that’s why we win,” Therrien said.

A year ago, with Mace quietly hampered by a foot injury much of the season, Flaherty carried a heavy load. This time, Flaherty fought through leg issues, never complained and was never close to 100 percent, even if his impressive numbers told a different tale.

The 2013 defense leaned on Luke Washburn, an immovable, 250-pound object who won the Gaziano Award as the best lineman in the state. This year’s group, anchored by Lacroix (145 pounds), Pease (165), Tervo (150) and the Merrills (145 and 155) relied on quickness and technique.

Oak Hill hit low and hit often. MCI’s bruising backfield of Jonathan Santiago, Eric Hathaway and Alex Bertrand were the ones who had trouble staying on the field, their nagging injuries aggravated by the ever-increasing physical toll of the final.

“We watched film on them all week,” Mace said. “Coach prepared us for them very well. We knew what they were going to come out and do.”

“You can’t measure someone’s heart with weight,” Doucette added.

No, but you can measure the field by yards, and opponents always had trouble logging the last ones against the Raiders.

Saturday was only the second game all year in which the Oak Hill defense allowed more than one touchdown, and MCI’s total of three was deceiving. One was scored on a halfback option pass. Another, against prevent defense in the fourth quarter.

“Our defense was I think underrated at times,” Doucette said. “We did a very good bending, not breaking. We challenged people to go the whole length of the field in every game we played this year.”

Oak Hill’s offense did precisely that, covering 99 yards to overcome a sputtering start and tie the game late in the first quarter.

Eighty of those came on the fourth and final play, when Therrien faked to Flaherty, veered to his right, saw the Huskies collapsing on him and pitched to Mace. The senior did the rest on what was the first big chunk of his 341 total yards.

“Once we get the first hit in us, and the butterflies go away, I think it’s just a football game after that. We do our thing,” Therrien said. “(Assistant) Coach (Geoff) Wright always puts us on the 1-yard line in practice, so we’re always practicing going 99 yards on the field. So we’ve been in that situation before. We know how to handle it.”

There were plenty of moments when it would have been easy to envision the Raiders falling short of a successful defense.

They never recovered in the standings from a Week 2 loss to Dirigo. When the top three teams each ended with one loss, Oak Hill ran afoul of the Crabtree Point system, drawing the No. 3 seed and being forced to make two bus rides just to reach the state showcase.

Oak Hill won its regional quarterfinal over Maranacook and championship game at Lisbon by identical scores of 7-6.

“A lot of nail-biters,” Doucette said. “I don’t know if you ever (think about going back-to-back). It’s a defense mechanism. We just think of our opponent every week, and that’s what we’ve got to do to be good. We have to work day in and day out.”

Respecting every opponent equally. Cherishing every championship in the same manner. Makes sense.

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