Game of the Week: Devils hope not to draw a blank against Vikings on new field

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Lewiston quarterback Tanner Cortes eludes Oxford Hills’ Parker Lafrance on his way to a touchdown during last year’s game between the two squads, which the Blue Devils won 10-0. (Brewster Burns photo)

Lewiston will officially dedicate its new Don Roux Field with a brief ceremony prior to the 7 p.m. kickoff of Friday night’s Class A North showdown with Oxford Hills. Any points scored by either team after kickoff may be worthy of some ceremonial recognition, too.

Maybe a brand-new setting can break the spell defense has cast over Blue Devils’ and Vikings’ gridiron battles in recent years. That’s what Lewiston hopes, at least, as the road team has pitched a shutout in each of the last three meetings between the two teams (Oxford Hills 19-0 at the original Don Roux Field in 2016, Lewiston 8-0 in 2015 and 10-0 last year at Gouin Athletic Complex).

Both teams come into the season aiming to build off of last year, which saw them earn home playoff games, and in Lewiston’s case a first-round bye.

One reason both teams believe they can convert regular-season success into playoff prosperity this fall is that both expect to be improved on offense.

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Both teams return their starting quarterbacks, seniors Colton Carson of Oxford Hills and Tanner Cortes of Lewiston. Both appear to be more comfortable in their role and surrounded by more weapons this year.

The Vikings are committed to spreading the ball around more this year, whether it is in a running game featuring Parker LaFrance, Emmerson Brown, JJ Worster, Colby VanDecker and Carson, or a passing game involving Cam Slicer, Janek Luksza, Alex Turner and Jonny Pruett.

The Blue Devils believe they have more options for their offense, too. Senior running back Hunter Landry will be the featured back, but juniors Jaheim Whiting, Jabrie Meyers and Dylon Jackson give opposing defenses even more speed to combat.

Besides getting all of their speed in space, both offenses face the challenge this season of limiting their mistakes. Too often last year, they shackled themselves with penalties and mental mistakes. The talent is there for both to be productive this year as long as they don’t get in their own way.

The defenses that will deliberately be trying to get in their way Friday night have questions of their own, particularly up front. Each team returns an all-conference defensive end, Worster for the Vikings and Tom Brochu for the Blue Devils. But both have significant holes to fill in the linebacking corps.

The secondary is primary when it comes to both teams’ defensive strength. The Vikings could start an all-senior secondary led by all-conference defensive back Turner, while another all-conference selection, Cortes, and Landry lead the Devils’ pass defense.

Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller invited football fans from all over to view the game and pregame ceremonies, which will include a parade of Lewiston high school and youth athletes onto the field, recognition of the new fields’ namesakes, Don Roux and Joseph Deschenes, and a coin toss feature Lewiston football legends.

“We’re keeping the festivities simple and thanking the community for its support,” Fuller said. “(The new Franklin Pasture complex) is an example of what a community is capable of when we all come together.”

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