WALES — The Oak Hill football team rallied behind the slogan “Find a Way” from the start of the season.
On Saturday, Oak Hill found a way past Dirigo 16-14 in the Western Class D championship game. And now the Raiders will find their way to Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland for the state final Saturday against Bucksport.
“I don’t think it’s real yet,” said Oak Hill’s Luke Washburn, a senior captain. “It’s amazing. It’s so unbelievable. I’m speechless.”
Senior quarterback Parker Asselin threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Alex Mace and Kyle Flaherty rushed for 196 yards on 33 carries to power the second-seeded Raiders (9-2), who reached a state final for the first time since 1984.
“It’s just incredible,” Asselin said. “If you had told me in June that we would be here now, I probably would have called you crazy. But we found a way.”
The Raiders and fourth-seeded Cougars (7-4) expected a physical, grind-it-out game, and that’s just what transpired before a large and energetic crowd. Dirigo controlled the clock early, holding the ball for nearly 17 of the 24 minutes in the first half.
Despite the disparity, the teams were tied 6-6 before Oak Hill took the lead for good on a 22-yard field goal from junior Adam Merrill midway through the third quarter.
The Raiders scored a pivotal touchdown with 8:17 left when Asselin hit Mace on a slant. Merrill booted the extra point and Oak Hill had a 16-6 lead.
“I knew it was one-on-one coverage,” Mace said. If I could get a couple steps ahead of (the defender), I’d be free in the end zone. The line gave Parker enough time to throw and we made the play.”
Dirigo answered quickly, as Brett Beauchesne raced up the middle for a 50-yard touchdown with 7:15 left. Tyler Frost completed the 2-point conversion pass to Riley Robinson and the Cougars trailed just 16-14.
Oak Hill punted on its ensuing possession but stuffed Dirigo on fourth down near midfield with 3:24 remaining, then ran out the clock.
Flaherty opened the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. The Cougars responded with a 13-play drive that Heath Hersom finished off with a 2-yard run.
Bill Stewart can be reached at 621-5640 or:firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: billstewartkj