PARIS — It is football’s matter-of-fact, shoulder-shrugging blanket statement, aimed at concealing any apprehension when a standout player gets hurt.

Next man up.

Sometimes it’s merely a smoke screen from a coach and a team who know they’re in trouble. On other occasions, a star is born.

In the case of Oxford Hills, “next man up” may have created a two-headed monster at fullback that will be a chore for opponents to stop.

Malik Geiger’s delayed recovery from a torn meniscus at the end of his junior season gave Vikings coach Mark Soehren and his staff a good look at understudy Davis Turner this summer. Turner’s performance was more than food for thought. It suggested that the Vikings, when healthy, might have a smorgasbord of options.

“Davis was really fast when we did our testing, and he’s looked great,” Soehren said. “Those two look so great that they’re going to both be on the field anyway, so they’ll probably share time.”

Geiger was the fifth-leading rusher in Class A East a year ago, amassing 916 yards and six touchdowns. Turner moved around the field and averaged only two carries per game as a utility man.

His main contributions came on defense, where he led the team in tackles and had the third-highest total in the Pine Tree Conference as an outside linebacker.

So, are the two backs interchangeable now?

“He’d like to think that,” Geiger said, drawing a hearty laugh from Turner.

“We’ll probably share, or I’ll rotate in a little bit more,” Turner added. “We’re way ahead of where we were last year, play-wise and speed-wise.”

When he’s at full strength, Geiger isn’t inclined to sit out many plays.

Oxford Hills won its 2013 season opener, 34-28, at Lewiston. Geiger carried the ball 39 times for 237 yards and three touchdowns.

He describes the knee injury as a “holdover” from the season — a torn meniscus, repaired with arthroscopic surgery. Geiger proclaimed himself 100 percent after the season-opening scrimmage against Skowhegan.

Any new look might have been by design, anyway. Brady LaFrance has shown more confidence and accuracy heading into his second season as starting quarterback. Jake Spinhirn provides a deep threat with exceptional hands.

“Brady is very fast, throws a very nice ball, and has a whole year under his belt,” Soehren said.

“We have a number of packages that we use certain kids for,” Geiger added.

It means the Vikings’ opponents will have to prepare for more than the triple option that has prevailed in the first two seasons of Soehren’s tenure.

On defense, Turner moves to inside linebacker, an assignment that will take greater advantage of his evolving quickness.

He is a captain for the second consecutive season, joined this time around in that capacity by LaFrance and tackle Creighton Medeiros.

“Davis was our all-conference guy. We found out you can’t run away from him,” Soehren said. “He’s a pretty laid-back kid. He’s plays with a lot of intensity. He’s not this huge rah-rah kid. He does have an infectious laugh. We try to keep him serious sometimes.”

Here’s one serious note: Oxford Hills is seeking its first winning season since Turner and Geiger were in third grade.

Three wins in 2012 were the most since that 2005 playoff campaign. Oxford Hills enters this season hoping to snap a seven-game losing streak.

“The seniors we have that have played the past few years, they’re extremely dedicated,” Turner said. “Hours in the weight room. Hours off the field.”

Oxford Hills has more than 50 players on its grade 10-to-12 roster.

“Sixty is the goal, but it’s been a long time since we’ve been up there,” Soehren said. “We have some depth and some competition at positions.”

Even the highest-profile ones.


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