WALES — It’s been nearly 30 years since the Oak Hill football team last played for a Gold Ball.
The decades-long drought ends today, when Oak Hill (9-2) faces Bucksport (10-0) in the Class D title game at 2:30 p.m. at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.
“It’s obviously exciting for us,” Oak Hill senior captain end Luke Washburn said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun to go out there in front of all those people.”
The Raiders, who last played for a state title in 1984, came out of Western D thanks to a few pulsating victories in games that were decided late. Oak Hill beat Lisbon 21-20 in the semifinals before it beating Dirigo 16-14 in the conference title game.
“We’re the cardiac kids,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said. “We’ve had five games this year that were decided in the final minute.”
It’s been a little easier ride for Bucksport, which is in a state title game for the second time in three years. The Golden Bucks lost to Yarmouth in the 2011 Class C game. They edged Orono 17-14 in the Eastern D semifinals before they rolled past Mattanawcook 42-8 in the final.
Bucksport, which last won a state title in 2004, features a diverse offense and a physical defense.
Quarterback Matthew Stewart threw for more than 1,000 yards this season, with many going to electric wideout Josh Gray.
“Josh Gray has had a big year for us,” Bucksport coach Joel Sankey said. “He is as dangerous as anyone in the open field. He will probably be the player of the year in the conference, or at least in the running.”
Jack Cyr and Nic Bishop will receive the bulk of the carries for the Bucks, who returned all but four starters from last year’s team, which finished 7-3. Gray, Asher Bowden and Bishop are also threats in the passing game.
“Bucksport is a very veteran team offensively,” Doucette said. “They are very diverse. They run multiple sets and multiple philosophies.”
Oak Hill features a balanced offense as well. Kyle Flaherty has rushed for a team-high 1,564 yards and 13 touchdowns. Junior Alex Mace has rushed for 699 yards and six touchdowns. He’s also been lining up outside and is a favorite target for senior quarterback Parker Asselin. Mace has a team-high 22 catches for 510 yards and five touchdowns.
“We have to stay humble,” Asselin said. “We have jobs to do and we just have to out and do it. When it comes down to it, we have to make plays.”
Kyle Tervo and Washburn also are involved in the passing game.
“They have some good athletes,” Sankey said. “(Washburn), he’s a good athlete. His stance and technique, he just looks like a Division I prospect. Mace and Flaherty look like tough runners, too.”
Both teams feature tough defenses.
Oak Hill is holding opponents to just 12.5 points a game. Opponents averaged just 12.6 against Bucksport.
“They are aggressive and they are just fast off the ball,” Doucette said. “They run a lot of different sets.”
Added Asselin: “They can make plays. What it comes down to is just tackling. We all have to do our jobs. As a team, I think we can beat anybody in either conference. I think we’re ready. Everybody is excited. The teachers and community, everybody is pulling for us.”
Bill Stewart can be contacted at 621-5640 or at: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @billstewartkj