Close competition vs. dizzying numbers.

Subtracting their Class D football championship showdown a year ago, there is no reliable means other than game film and conjecture to handicap Friday night’s rematch between Oak Hill and Maine Central Institute.

Oak Hill is the two-time defending state champion, rides a 20-game winning streak and has been battle-tested in the Campbell Conference. MCI rolled through the arguably thinner ranks of the Little Ten Conference, its starters rarely seeing the field in the fourth quarter.

Both teams are 10-0. Kickoff is 7:06 p.m. at Morse Field on the University of Maine campus in Orono.

“Our league was very tough. We felt whoever came out of our conference would be an extremely good representative, whether it was Lisbon, Dirigo, Winthrop or Oak Hill,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “There were no easy games. The coaches in our conference do a good job preparing their kids, and the kids work hard. I’m very proud of our conference.”

Close playoff wins have been the Raiders’ calling card throughout their reign. Oak Hill won its three South titles by a total of four points, including a 21-20 victory over Lisbon this year. That followed a 13-10 semifinal triumph over Winthrop/Monmouth.

MCI overwhelmed Orono, 76-27, in the North semifinal before squelching Mattanawcook, 45-0, in the title game. The Huskies held to the Lynx to a net minus-7 yards of total offense.

The Huskies have scored 484 points with an average margin of victory of 47.

“We’ve got to communicate, because they’re definitely a good team,” Oak Hill linebacker Levi Buteau said. “They have a lot of motions. We have to talk as much as we can. We might not be able to huddle up, so we have to do it on the line as fast as we can.”

MCI used a 41-21 loss to Oak Hill in the 2014 title game as motivation this season, adopting a motto of “One More Game.”

“I think the strength of their team is the offensive line and defensive line,” Doucette said. “Those kids are big. They’re physical. They’re strong.”

Junior tailback Willie Moss has rushed for eight touchdowns in MCI’s two playoff wins. Clearing lanes for Moss are bruising senior fullback Alex Bertrand and the front five of Mike Steeves, Alex Jones, Curtis McLeod, Mike Westgate and Dillon Fitts.

Greg Vigue returns at quarterback, with junior Josh Buker emerging as a primary target in the no-huddle arrangement.

“The quarterback is a four-year starter. He’s seasoned. He looks down the barrel of the gun every time he throws the ball. The tailback is extremely good, and the fullback is a leader,” Doucette said. “Every team has their own identity, and I think with them it is experience.”

Oak Hill won’t be overshadowed in that category. No fewer than nine seniors saw quality time in the 2013 final as sophomores.

Dalton Therrien starred as a wide receiver and cornerback in the 42-35 win over Bucksport. He directed the Raiders’ offense a year ago and has emerged as one of the top double-threat quarterbacks in the state.

In addition to completing 57 percent of his passes for 1,297 yards and 17 touchdowns, Therrien leads the Raiders in rushing with 870 yards and 14 TDs.

Buteau (640 yards, 5 TDs) and Cruz Poirier (455 yards, 4 TDs) embellish an attack that can grind out long, punishing drives or strike in a hurry.

“Our passing game especially has evolved,” senior receiver Connor Nilsson said. “Levi and Cruz and Steven Gilbert stepped in and really did a great job, but our receivers have evolved. Dalton knows how to throw the football. I think that really helped out this year.”

Nilsson and Jonah Martin have combined for 38 catches, 12 for touchdowns. Colby Spencer, Darryn Bailey and Gilbert all are threats.

Garrett Gile, Austin Goucher and Brendon Tervo are three-year starters on the offensive line. Tervo is expected to play after spraining his knee and missing the regional final.

Connor Elwell, Brian Thorpe and Matthew Strout lead a balanced Oak Hill defense in which 13 different players produced at least one turnover.

Strout’s fumble recoveries preserved wins over Dirigo and Winthrop/Monmouth. Oak Hill returned the state game by knocking down a two-point conversion pass after Lisbon fumbled the snap on an extra point that would have tied the game.

“I think with all the teams that we’ve been facing this year, they’ve all put a big impact on us,” Buteau said. “We pretty much know what’s going to come.”

Linebacker Eli Bussell scored three of MCI’s seven defensive touchdowns this season. Moss and Jones are playmakers in the secondary. Aaron Noonan provides the pass rush at defensive end.

MCI has put together consecutive unbeaten seasons in the LTC after going winless when the current seniors were freshmen.

Oak Hill is bidding to become the first team in any class to win three consecutive state title since Orono ruled Class C from 1979 to 1981.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.