Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s Dawson Stevens (8), slips past Edward Little’s Ryan Ross (2) and into the end zone for the only touchdown of the first half during their game at Walton Field in Auburn on Friday.
The offensive woes and penalties that mired the Oxford Hills Vikings in losses to Edward Little and Lewiston can’t continue in next Saturday’s homecoming date with Windham. A loss to the Eagles would mean one against each of the teams they are chasing in the Class A North standings with back-to-back games against A South powers Thornton Academy and Scarborough to start October.
Offensively, the Vikings are looking for more consistency from their running game and balance from the passing game. They also could help both areas out by not making the mistakes — such as bad snaps and penalties — that have afflicted them going back to their Week 1 win over Portland.
“Continually, we make unforced errors,” Vikings coach Mark Soehren said.
The second half of Friday night’s 7-6 loss to EL summed up the Vikings’ struggles. Twenty-five yards in penalties in the second half essentially canceled out what little production the offense had in the second half of Friday night’s 7-6 loss to Edward Little. Oxford Hills followed its first and only first down of the half with a holding penalty and two bad snaps on the next three plays.
Soehren said he’s trying to pinpoint what it is the Vikings aren’t carrying from practice to the game field.
“Thing is, if we had those during the week, I would get it. We just don’t have those things. So those are something I need to go figure out, like, what are we not creating in practice that we’re not able to perform during the game?” Soehren said.
Steady Eddies on defense
Edward Little’s defense has allowed just six points in the last seven quarters, going back to a shutting out Cheverus for the last three quarters of a 26-20 Week 3 victory.
EL only allowed one first down in the second half of Friday’s 7-6 win over Oxford Hills. Coach Dave Sterling credited linebackers Maxx Bell, Terrell Thomas and Justin Theriault with leading a disciplined unit that allowed 19 total yards in the final 24 minutes.
“Talking with our linebackers, they understood what adjustments to make,” Sterling said, “and they were making very good reads from the work we had done during the week on, you know, what formations, what plays they should see. We’ve got some very smart guys the play at the defensive line and linebacker, and they did very well.”
“Our defense played extremely well,” he added.
Friday night’s game was the latest in a series of nail-biters between EL and Oxford Hills dating back to 2013, with the exception of a 42-14 EL blowout in 2015. Five of the last six games (including last year’s playoff meeting) have come down to one possession — decided by one point two times as well as others with a margin of seven, four and six points.
“It’s a good rivalry. It’s been this way — it’s my eighth year, and every year it’s a slugging match and both communities come out, and they really make a statement on your season,” Sterling said. “We both laid everything on the field. They played very well, and we just happened to get the extra point.”
Rebels put heat on Raiders
Yes, Saturday’s game between Class D Washington Academy and Class E Telstar was as wild the final score indicated.
Washington Academy jumped out to a 18-0 lead, then barely held off a furious Telstar comeback in the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth for a 58-49 lead.
“Washington started out pretty hot and we came out flat,” Telstar coach Tim O’Connor said. “And it was 87 degrees.”
Everyone was feeling the effects of the heat by the end of the matinee, but credit the Rebels’ steadily improving offense with making the Raiders sweat it out before their long bus ride back to East Machias.
Telstar finally got on track late in the first quarter and chipped away at the deficit before pulling within 36-35 with a touchdown to start the second half. The Raiders maintained the lead by blocking the extra point, and never let the Rebels get closer.
Obviously, the 0-4 Rebels are still trying to get their young defense on the same page, but O’Connor is encouraged with the offense’s progress since starting the season with a 19-0 loss to Boothbay. They scored a touchdown and two-point conversion against a tough Maranacook team and put up 21 points in a loss to Camden Hills before Saturday’s explosion.
Caleb Merrill scored two touchdowns while fellow fullback Shane Ojeda and quarterback Davin Mason had one apiece for the Rebels on Saturday. But the engine that makes the offense go is versatile and elusive senior Aaron Vermette, who lines up at a number of positions on offense.
“We try to get him in the open field and we’ve been successful,” O’Connor said. “When he gets out there, he can juke and he can use a stiff-arm to get free.”
The Rebels host unbeaten Boothbay again at their homecoming next Saturday. They have an open date the following Saturday, as scheduled opponent Traip Academy has forfeited the remainder of its season. O’Connor said he is hoping to find a junior varsity team to step in and fill the void on the schedule. If not, they will hit the field again on Oct. 14 at Camden Hills.
Assistant Sports Editor Lee Horton contributed to this story.