H.S. Football: Turner vaults Vikings to new heights

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PARIS — Cain and Abel. Hank and Tommie. Peyton and Eli. Dexter and Davis.

History, and sports, teach us that some brother combinations work out better than others. If you can overcome the sibling rivalry and let it sharpen and drive you, being the younger half of that equation can be an invaluable blessing.

For the latter tandem, the Turner football brethren of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, the arrangement made older brother Dexter a Lobster Bowl participant and eventually a Division I player at the University of Maine.

“He was always doing what brothers do. Beating on me, making me tougher throughout the years, so it was good for me,” Davis Turner said. “He was always the biggest in his class, and when I was younger I was actually really small. I had a big growth spurt going into high school.”

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No longer getting pushed around, Davis, a three-year starter, is well on his way to joining Dexter at the next level.

You can make the strong case that his high school career with the Vikings has been more successful than big brother’s. Davis leads Class A East with 104 total tackles and is fourth in rushing with 702 yards and nine touchdowns.

Most importantly, the middle Turner brother — the youngest is only 7 — has led Oxford Hills (4-4) to its first .500 season and playoff berth in nine years. The Vikings travel Friday night to Cameron Stadium in Bangor (5-3), where they’ve beaten the Rams in their two most recent visits.

“He’s a kid who loves the game of football, and he’s a kid who loves to compete, plus the ability, and the work ethic. You look at those four things, the good ones have three out of four, the average and above average have at least two, and there’s others that have one of those. He’s got all four,” Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said. “It’s nice for us as a coaching staff to see him be recognized for the player he’s been.”

Davis started two years at outside linebacker and slot receiver for two seasons, including his sophomore year, when Dexter led the Vikings to three victories.

Oxford Hills slipped to one win in 2013. Coming into Turner’s senior season, Soehren and defensive coordinator Nate Danforth moved him to fullback and inside linebacker. It was designed to take full advantage of his improved quickness, love of contact and nose for the football.

“Defense has always been my thing,” Turner said. “Offense is good. I just think I have the mindset more of a defensive player. The physical aspect. I think to play defense you have to have the mindset of a warrior, almost.”

No secret where that started.

“I don’t think there’s anything taken away from Dexter,” Soehren said with a laugh. “He’s a great kid, but you know how older brothers are. I’ve got two sons, and the younger one learns how to compete.”

Having someone to blaze the trail for Turner not only made him tougher physically, but mentally. 

While Davis didn’t want to disappoint anybody who compared him to Dexter, he was eager to carve out his own reputation.

“There were definitely a lot of expectations following in his footsteps. I’m always working to be better than what he was presented to be,” Turner said. “Playing with him my sophomore year, that’s really what pushed me to do well.”

Nobody pushes Turner, who also plays on Oxford Hills’ club hockey team and runs track, harder than he prods himself.

Soehren describes Turner as a “heel-toe” runner his sophomore and junior season who made himself faster the same way late baseball great Tony Gwynn made himself a hall of fame hitter.

Turner convinced friends to hold a video camera and follow him as he ran a series of 40-yard dashes.

“He would watch the start and watch different parts of it,” Soehren said. “He was going to go to a combine, and he didn’t ignore any parts of his goal to be a Division I football player.”

At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Turner has the physique to go along with the passion and skill needed to climb that mountain.

Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are on his short list. He proudly — well, as proudly as a rival little brother can muster — said that he believes Dexter would be playing in Orono if not for a dislocated knee suffered just prior to the start of the season.

“I really want to strive to go D1,” Turner said. “It’s been kind of weird throughout the years, me growing as a football player and also character-wise. A good football player has good character. I don’t know how you can be a good football player without good character.”

Soehren repeatedly used the same word when saluting his tri-captain.

“The kids who do well in college love the game and compete well. I played college football and washed out after two years, and that’s actually what it was,” the coach said. “I didn’t have the perspective. He has that perspective. He loves the game.”

Turner hopes to make a playoff run before embarking upon the next phase of his dream.

Oxford Hills shut out Bangor last week, 18-0, but it was a game in which most of the Rams’ starting lineup served a one-game suspension for a locker room incident.

“We haven’t been here for a while, so I feel that it’s a great accomplishment for us, the community, the coaches, everyone who’s helped us along the way,” Turner said. “The team is looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to it. Those kids will be back, but we feel it will be a good game.”

And if they win? Oh, brother, what a celebration in the Hills.

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