Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School players practice during a preseason workout.
PARIS — Oxford Hills tasted enough success in 2016 to head into 2017 with confidence and hungry for more.
“We have a lot of the same kids returning, especially on the offensive line,” senior center/defensive end Jarrod Taylor said. “There’s a bond there from last year.”
“Mentally and physically, we’re a lot stronger this year,” senior guard/defensive tackle Shawn Hermanson said.
Oxford Hills won four of its last six games, including an overtime home playoff over Edward Little. The Vikings may build off of that success, but coach Mark Soehren said ending on a 5-5 mark only showed how much further they have to go.
“We’re proud of what we did last year but that’s not a big topic of conversation. Having a better record is,” Soehren said. “The next thing is competing with the Portlands and Windhams and Cheveruses.”
A brutal schedule requires Soehren to include crossover opponents Scarborough and Thornton Academy on that checklist.
The Vikings think they can match up in the trenches with a big, veteran offensive line led by Taylor, Hermanson and junior Austin Doughty that is becoming more and more diversified.
“They’re pretty big and pretty strong,” Soehren said. “We put in a little more advanced stuff with our coaches working with UMaine this spring. They really helped us out with some of the things we’re going to run on that line.”
New quarterback Colton Carson absorbed the playbook and new nomenclature as a true understudy last year and is ready to show off the arm that allowed him to verbally commit to University of Maine baseball over the summer.
“He said last winter that he wanted to feel prepared,” Soehren said. “He’s put in a lot of time in the off-season. He’s really come along. We’re really excited about where he is.”
“He’s taken charge of the offense this year,” senior guard/defensive tackle Jamal Hill said. “He knows basically what everybody is doing and what the o-line calls are. He’s involved with everything.”
Carson’s arm should mean more involvement for wideouts Tasker Winslow and Dylan Cobbett and tight end Jordan Silver. But the Vikings are still about the power running game. Senior all-conference runner Dawson Stevens returns to be the lead back, but thinks juniors Emerson Brown and Cam Slicer will keep defenses guessing.
“Emerson is a tough inside runner, and Cam Slicer is more of a speed back, like me,” Stevens said.
The defensive line is all new, though the quartet of Hermanson, Taylor, Hill and Stevens has plenty of varsity experience. Small but quick, they hope to have blockers chasing them to free up all-conference linebacker Silver, Parker LaFrance, who is moving from outside to inside, and outside linebacker Jason Paradis to make plays.
If a young secondary led by Winslow develops quickly, the Vikings could be even better than the conference’s third stingiest defense that was a key to last year’s run.