Two distinctly different emotions erupt in the moments immediately after the conclusions of an overtime playoff football game.

One, obviously, is euphoria, especially when it comes from a program that hadn’t won a playoff game in 16 years (before some players on the team were born) and hadn’t won a home playoff game in 22 years (when no one on the team was born).

Yes, Oxford Hills/Buckfield was the victor in Friday night’s 26-20 overtime contest in the Class A North quarterfinals. The Vikings hadn’t won a playoff game anywhere since 2000, and hadn’t won one at home since 1994. And they had yet to win a postseason contest at Gouin Athletic Complex. So there was exuberant excitement in the Vikings’ postgame huddle in one end zone.

In the other end zone, however, there was an outburst of emotion that eclipsed 100 yards on the opposite end of the spectrum from what the Vikings were feeling.

Football is supposed to be a tough-guy sport, with players posing as warriors on the gridiron. But what the Edward Little players felt after falling in overtime reduced some of them to tears. A handful of them apologized to head coach Dave Sterling, sorry they couldn’t have done better. Older players embraced younger ones. Backs were patted in the hopes that tears would get knocked away.

Sterling, himself, couldn’t hide his emotions, but his reflections on the abruptly-ended season were positive ones.

“They’re extremely resilient kids,” Sterling said. “(I’ve) talked a number of times about the injuries we had through the season. To be able to get to a playoff, work as hard as we did, come as close as we did, and as well make our program move forward.

“We played very well against some very good teams. This senior class really was a very good building block on next year’s program. I couldn’t be more proud of the kids that put in a lot of hard work through the long summer days as well as into the fall. They came right down to the wire in a good game.”

A good one to boot

The game went down to the wire, and late in the contest, Vikings sophomore Janek Luksza performed a high-wire act of sorts.

Luksza had a pair of forgettable punts early in the game. The first hooked left and went for just 9 yards. The next faded right for 11 yards. He improved in the second half, punting a 34-yarder on the Vikings’ opening drive.

But it was his fourth and final fourth-down kick that turned heads — and field position. Luksza’s kick rolled toward the right sideline, then went out of bounds at the 1-yard line, just before it reached the end-zone pylon for what could have been a touchback.

The clutch 39-yard kick gave the Red Eddies the ball just ahead of their own goal line, and all but guaranteed that they wouldn’t score with 2:33 left, having to go 99 yards with a new-found, run-first attack.

“The thing is, with Janek, he really is an amazing competitor,” Vikings coach Mark Soehren said. “He doesn’t get on the field a ton, other than punting. His first two punts, they weren’t the worst in the world, but they weren’t the greatest. And instead of pouting about it or whatever, he came back and hit the best punt, probably, I’ve seen in my career, timely-wise and as far as where it’s going out of bounds.”

The Red Eddies only got out to the 20-yard line, then punted back to the Vikings, who returned that kick back to the 20. The Vikings had a chance at a game-winning field goal, but that kick missed.

What transpired over the final 153 seconds of regulation can be traced back to Luksza’s punt, even if it didn’t prevent that game from going to overtime.

“I think they’ve come to understand this year how important special team is,” Soehren said. “I think when you’re not winning a lot of games, you don’t understand how one or two plays can really turn the tide of a close game.”

Postseason perspiration

No local postseason game was as close as the overtime thriller between Edward Little and Oxford Hills/Buckfield, but that wasn’t the only tense postseason contest.

Underdog Leavitt (which has rarely been in that spot over the past half-decade) nearly pulled off an upset of undefeated Kennebunk in the Class B South quarterfinals, but the top-seeded Rams hung on, 16-14. The Hornets made it into the playoffs by a slim amount of Crabtree points, despite a 2-6 regular-season record. Leavitt showed that anything can happen once the postseason begins.

Playoff greenhorn Freeport did just the same against the green-and-black at Griffin Field. Spruce Mountain is a playoff regular, and Griffin has been hostile territory for the opponents over the years, but the Falcons kept altitude with the Phoenix throughout their Class C South quarterfinal Friday night. Seeds did hold serve, however, with No. 4 Spruce Mountain holding on against No. 5 Freeport.

Dirigo’s win on Friday was unsurprisingly a nail-biter. The Cougars narrowly defeated Old Orchard Beach 14-7 in Class D South. The No. 4 Cougars and No. 5 Seagulls had met the week before in a 12-6 Dirigo win.

Now the Cougars move on to the semifinals, where they’ll face top-seeded Winthrop/Monmouth in a rematch of a 14-6 regular-season meeting.

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