Oak Hill junior running back Kyle Flaherty knew exactly what to do and where to go when he took handoff after handoff Saturday in the Class D football state championship game.
“I just followed Luke (Washburn),” Flaherty said. “Where he went, I went.”
And where Flaherty went, so did the Raiders.
Flaherty rushed for 217 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries to lead Oak Hill past Bucksport 42-35 in a wild and chilly state final at Fitzpatrick Stadium.
“We worked hard all year,” Flaherty said. “We were trying to wear them down, and that’s what we did.”
The Raiders (10-2), who won their first state championship since 1982, also needed a late defensive stand inside their own 20 to preserve the victory.
“We played tough defense when we had to,” Oak Hill Coach Stacen Doucette said.
The Raiders relied on a bruising ground game that wore down the Golden Bucks (11-1).
“We knew it would be an offensive game and it was,” said Washburn, a 245-pound end who cleared holes plenty big enough for Flaherty slip through. “It’s such an amazing feeling. I can’t even describe it.”
The teams were tied 28-28 heading into the fourth quarter before Oak Hill surged ahead with two touchdowns.
Alex Mace hauled in a 28-yard touchdown reception – his second of the game – from Parker Asselin early in the fourth quarter.
Bucksport punted on its ensuing possession, and the Raiders answered with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that Flaherty finished with a 3-yard run with 4:57 left.
“He’s a tough runner,” Bucksport Coach Joel Sankey said, “but we didn’t tackle well. (Oak Hill) made the plays they needed to.”
The Golden Bucks pulled to within 42-35 when Josh Gray caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Matt Stewart with 2:55 remaining. Oak Hill fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Bucksport recovered at the Oak Hill 18 with 2:47 left.
However, Washburn all but ended the game when he sacked Stewart on fourth down 57 seconds later.
“He’s a big reason why we are here,” Flaherty said.
Gray enjoyed a strong performance for the Bucks, catching five passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 34 yards.
“He’s an explosive ball player when he gets the ball in his hands,” Sankey said.
The teams exchanged scores for much of the game. Bucksport quarterback Matt Stewart was 11 of 16 for 142 yards and three scores. Asselin completed 7 of 10 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for a touchdown.
Bill Stewart can be contacted at 621-5640 or at: