POLAND — Caden Thompson ran for 233 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground to rumble Oak Hill past Poland 35-20 in a Class D football game Friday night.

Thompson racked up 169 yards in just the first half, when the Raiders (4-1) ran for 253 yards while not gaining any passing yards.

“We came in with a goal to establish the running game. We threw the ball a lot last game,” Oak Hill coach Chad Stowell said. “We thought probably they were going to be prepared for that, when we attacked Bucksport through the air, so we kind of wanted to establish the running game.

“Caden’s been our lead guy pretty much all year long and today was just kind of the icing on the cake of a really good run that he’s been on the last four weeks.”

Thompson opened the scoring with a 2-yard run on the opening drive. The Knights (1-2) then stopped him inches short on fourth down on the next drive.

“We kind of came out, we weren’t sure exactly what defense they were going to come out (with). Coach had a pretty good idea,” Thompson said. “You know, we always like to start with our running because that’s kind of where we base our team around. And it just worked out for today’s game.”

Poland responded with a touchdown drive capped off by a Lagan O’Driscoll 10-yard quarterback keeper. The two-point pass failed, keeping a 7-6 lead for Oak Hill.

The teams traded off scoring drives, with Tiger Hopkins (115 yards rushing) scoring from 10 yards out for Oak Hill and Isaac Fifield answering from Poland to make it 14-12.

Thompson’s second touchdown run, from 30 yards out gave the Raiders a 20-12 halftime lead.

The Knights’ responding drive to Thompson’s second touchdown was a three-and-out which featured three straight incomplete attempts to Hunter Gibson, who was stymied by Brandon Giguere each time.

“Hunter’s a really good athlete, Hunter Gibson over there,” Stowell said. “He’s a good athlete in all sports, we face him in everything over here. We knew they were going to try to attack with him. Brandon got beat earlier in the game and I think he made an adjustment. And as he kept making better plays, his confidence just kept growing. He’s been a good corner for us all year long.”

Poland opened the second half with an O’Driscoll 32-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Gibson. The pair connected on the two-point conversion, with O’Driscoll throwing over his head with his back to the end zone after a fake handoff, tying the game 20-20.

“I think (the passing game) was huge. I mean, I think it gives us a different dimension,” Poland coach Gus LeBlanc said. “Early in the season, when we lost our starting quarterback (Sam Luce), we were pretty much a running team. But we don’t have the horses to survive that. So we know we’re going to have to develop into a passing team. We’ve been working at it and that’s one of our first steps. And so I think it really was huge for us to make those connections, and we just need to do more of it, that’s all.”

Thompson had two fourth-quarter touchdown runs, of 6 and 4 yards, to complete the scoring. Giguere made three extra-points in the game and Hopkins added a two-point run on a fake PAT hold.

“It felt good to really ice the game at that last second,” Thompson said of his fourth TD with 2:30 left. “And then Ramon (Spearman) came in at the very end to truly ice it with the (interception of a trick-play throw by Gibson). (But) it felt good to score that last one.”

Thompson, who had 30 carries, said he wanted to run as physical as possible, and he noted that Stowell gave him breaks after his longer runs.

“I wanted to get into the end zone as much as I possibly could,” Thompson said.

The Raiders finished with 423 rushing yards on 71 carries, while Jackson Arbour only had to complete one of his four passing attempts, which was a 14-yard connection with Maverick Swan in the fourth quarter.

“What really hurt us tonight is our tackling,” LeBlanc said. “It’s something that’s been an issue for us, and we know it, and it’s a basic skill that we need to continue to work on. But I was pleased with the kids, that they battled back and we tied the score. But it’s the mistakes and the lack of tackling that I think really hurt us a lot.”

Poland ran for only 22 yards on 15 carries, including just 3 yards in the second half. O’Driscoll was 6 for 18 passing for 117 yards, but none after his touchdown pass to Gibson.

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