Darryn Bailey, playing for Oak Hill High School, is one of the top wide receivers in the state’s Class D schools.

WALES — Gavin Rawstron is well aware how lucky he is as a freshman quarterback to have a senior target like wide receiver Darryn Bailey.

“It’s great to have a wide receiver like that your first year coming out,” Rawstron said.

Few quarterbacks, regardless of what class they play in, are as spoiled as Rawstron is, being able to throw to the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Bailey.

Bigger than any defensive back that lines up across from him, faster and more competitive than virtually anyone on the field, and with three years of  varsity experience to draw from, Bailey in is virtually uncoverable by one defender.

“It depends on who we’re playing (whether Bailey is double-teamed),” Rawstron said. “There are a few times he’s been one-on-one with a shorter guy, like Madison. That happened quite a bit. But usually, when it’s a rival like Winthrop or Lisbon, they have him double-covered.”

Bailey has been burning Class D South defenses such as Lisbon and Winthrop deep for three years. Madison is new to the conference this year so they are probably demanding a mulligan.

The Raiders know opponents are at the mercy of Bailey’s ability to stretch the field and look to take advantage, whether it’s running senior running back Cruz Poirier to the opposite side if he is drawing double coverage, or having the strong-armed Rawstron throw over the top to Bailey.

More than half of Rawstron’s 965 yards and 12 touchdowns have been to Bailey, so containing him is usually the option opponents choose while hoping others such as Poirier don’t exploit any cracks that might open up.

“Because of what Darryn can do, he can make outside linebackers widen out, he can make safeties cheat over, make people play out of position for the running game, and it’s a big advantage,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “I think he demands attention.” 

The soft-spoken Bailey doesn’t call much attention to himself, but 594 yards and eight touchdowns say plenty about his dominance. 

In three years, Bailey has played with three different quarterbacks — Dalton Therrien as a sophomore on the Raiders’ last state champion, Matthew Strout last year and Rawstron this year.

The Raiders were more run-oriented with Strout last year, which made Bailey less of a deep threat. Being able to stretch the field again with Rawstron brought out the best in the senior.

“He throws a pretty good ball. We have a pretty good connection on routes and stuff,” Bailey said. “I think he’s a lot like Dalton in terms of throwing, so this year has been a lot like my sophomore year.”

Bailey’s size, strength and leaping ability always served him well in the red zone. When the Raiders are within range, a lob to Bailey in the end zone is a frequent happy ending.

“When the ball’s in the air, he competes more than anyone,” Doucette said. “We talk about his size and athleticism, but I think what sets him apart is his ball skills. He’s probably the best receiver I’ve ever coached.”

Bailey’s physical skills and knowledge of the position made him the perfect person to bring along a new, young quarterback. Rawstron credits Bailey with making them almost immediately simpatico.

It took some time, but the pair has developed the unspoken rapport all good quarterback/receiver tandems must have.

“We had a play like that against Madison. I noticed they were pressing me so I kind of waived Gavin down and he checked the call,” Bailey said.

Doucette credited Bailey’s maturation as a leader with giving his young team an example to follow.

“I think Darryn would tell you he’s a pretty laid-back guy, Doucette said, “and sometimes it would translate to his play. But I think this year he’s taken it upon himself to work hard all the time, all practice long, and focus on the little things. We need him to focus on the little things.”

As a three-year starter at safety, Bailey has seen and done big and little things for  the Raider defense. He leads the team in tackles with 88 and has two interceptions. 

With typical humility, Bailey said he’s just doing his job, but Doucette has a more vivid description.

“Darryn’s our eraser,” Doucette said. “We make a lot of mistakes at times on defense and Darryn seems to be the person that covers for a lot of people.”

“With our defense, everything is filtered to me, so I just try to keep everything contained inside,” Bailey said. 

He is hoping to study criminal justice and become a state trooper, following in his grandfather’s footsteps in law enforcement. Husson has expressed interest in having him play football in addition to pursuing that dream. 

 The most immediately attainable dream is another state championship before his high school career ends. As much as he’s enjoyed individual success, Bailey is frustrated the Raiders are 3-4 and fighting for a playoff spot when they play Lisbon on Saturday.

“There are two or three games out there that we should have won that we didn’t,” Bailey said. “We’re all treating Saturday like a playoff game. We’re going 110 percent in practice all of the time.”

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