Gavin Rawstron wasn’t able to quarterback Oak Hill during his senior season of 11-man tackle football last year. Neither was Atticus Soehren at Oxford Hills nor Wyatt Hathaway at Leavitt. 

Many teams in the state needed to find replacements under center after almost two years between games. The Raiders, Vikings and Hornets didn’t have to look far. 

At Oak Hill, the replacement is Rawstron’s friend Jackson Arbour, who is described as “inseparable” from Rawstron by new head coach and longtime assistant Chad Stowell. Stowell has coached the duo for years in baseball and football, and that relationship has proved to be conducive for the Raiders. 

“I think it was kids seeing it, feeling comfortable with it, knowing it was going to happen, and when it did happen it was an easy transition for everybody,” Stowell said. “I think Jackson playing different positions helped him grasp the offense. A lot of the philosophies and the technique and even some of the words are the same, so him playing receiver and quarterback will help us. Obviously, in football when someone calls a play, if they don’t understand something, the first person they ask is the quarterback, so it helps our offense.”

Arbour is ready to take over the offense after learning under Rawstron’s wing.

“I’ve been working under Gavin since I was a freshman, and it was kind of the plan for me to take over after,” Arbour said. “Coach Stowell and coach Stacen Doucette, when he was still here, helped me a lot and it’s helped my confidence. I’m ready to get going on Saturday.”

Stowell puts a lot of stock into the fact that his relationship with Arbour goes back years and has strengthened. Strengthened so much that Stowell said Arbour is basically a megaphone for him on the field. 

“If Jackson is saying something, then (the other players) have that feeling that it came from Coach Stowell and into Jackson’s ears, and he’s going to say it, and I think that makes the kids feel a little more confident,” Stowell said. “When Jackson says, ‘Hey, we gotta keep going,’ or, ‘Hey, we’ve got to tighten up a little bit,’ it’s almost like Jackson is saying that this is the last warning before Coach Stowell steps in and is upset.

“Our relationship is so strong that he is kind of a conduit between me and the team. I think that makes the team understand that you need to listen when Jackson is talking.”

The connection between Stowell and Arbour has put a lot of teammates at ease in the huddle, according to Stowell. Stowell also said that Arbour is a vocal leader and can command a huddle. The Raiders are hoping that command translates well on the field. 

“It’s super comfortable with Stowell,” Arbour said. “He knows me really well. There are times in practice where he was going to say something and I say it before him and he says, ‘You always know what to say.’”

Oak Hill is scheduled to play its first game of the season on Saturday against Foxcroft Academy after its original season opener against John Bapst was canceled due to quarantined opposing players. Even though Arbour was the junior varsity quarterback his freshman year, Stowell wishes Oak Hill had some more game-speed minutes under its belt before it faces Foxcroft. 

“It would have been nice to get a game in before that, but it did solidify that we would be healthy going into the game,” Stowell said. “It also gave us another week to fine-tune some things and iron out some wrinkles we had in the game plan. It’s really hard to simulate having a game. What you’ll hear from every coach in the state right now, with numbers being down, it’s even harder getting a real great simulation on what you’re going to face when you’re facing a Foxcroft team and your scout team is essentially freshmen and sophomores who have never played a varsity game ever.”

Oak Hill trusts its vocal leader, Arbour, and Oxford Hills head coach Mark Soehren said his team trusts junior quarterback Eli Soehren calling the shots at QB for the Vikings this fall. 

“It’s a good group of kids and they do trust each other,” Mark Soehren said. “It’s not an issue for him when he fumbles around a bit, the kids are fine with it. It comes down to play.”

Soehren helped Oxford Hills beat Lewiston 54-0 last Saturday with 147 passing yards and two passing touchdowns while also rushing for 81 yards and a score on the ground. There was one play, in particular, in that game that stood out to Eli’s father and coach that proved the team made the right choice under center.

It was a scripted hitch route for a receiver on the outside. When the ball was snapped, Eli Soehren didn’t go to it. 

“I wasn’t really thinking about it, but he looked at the read and he knows in certain situations he can go deep,” Mark Soehren said. “The ball was snapped and I thought, ‘Why didn’t he throw the hitch?’ Then he threw the 48-yard touchdown pass to Matt Doucette. … Eli is motivated by completions and touchdowns. The transition for me is knowing Eli likes to throw deep and add that in more.”

This season, Leavitt head coach Mike Hathaway had to replace his son, Wyatt Hathaway, who led the Hornets to a 2019 Class C state championship. Hunter Hayes was an easy choice. 

“Hunter knows our playbook so well, so that’s been super smooth,” Hathaway said. “His skill set has been a little different, but that happens, so as coaches we are used to adjusting. The leader that Hunter is, anyways, he’s such a natural leader and he fits the bill as QB.”

Hathaway lauded Hayes’ effort in practice, and he said that sophomore quarterback Noah Carpenter is pushing him, and Hayes likewise pushes Carpenter every day.

While the Hornets don’t have a game this week because Hermon has to quarantine, Leavitt will use Hayes’ experience as the backup in 2019, when he had a lot of the snaps in the preseason while Hathaway healed a shoulder injury, and his stint at quarterback in the 2018 Class C South regional final against Fryeburg Academy, to help jumpstart the season in Week 3 against Wells. 

“Hunter’s experience and being around the game of football is so similar to Wyatt, and it makes it an easy transition for me personally,” Hathaway said. “Hunter is a football player and has been around the game for so long. You appreciate that when you have that type of kid at quarterback. It’s good to be able to do some things that go above and beyond the basics.”


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