“What the coaches said in general, and I said to them, we need to forget this score and remember what a great season we had,” Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said. “We can’t let this define what we’ve done.”

The Vikings finish the season with a 5-5 record. They won a playoff game for the first time in 16 years, and hosted a playoff game for the first time in 22 years.

“It’s a program that, clearly we’ve struggled,” Soehren said. “And I told them that I don’t think that they know how hard it was to really take a struggling program and put it in position where it won a playoff game. It’s been so long, and these kids, most of them weren’t even alive.

“We made a little bit of history.”

Oxford Hills’ long drive home started when Portland’s Vincent Pasquali returned the Vikings first punt 55 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game.

“Vinnie, he’s electric; he’s fast,” Portland quarterback Issiah Bachelder said.


That was a disastrous start for the upset-minded Vikings, who lost to the Bulldogs 36-7 in the teams’ regular-season meeting at Fitzpatrick.

“That was a tough one,” Soehren said, adding that the punt team has been a solid unit this season. “It’s one of those things where, or course, I’ll have to look on film, but we just sort of lost contain out there.

“I think that we just weren’t quite ready for how fast Portland plays. It’s tough to simulate how fast those guys are and what they do, and I think that showed on that (punt return) — all of a sudden, he’s gone.

“When you’re a playoff inexperienced team and you’re trying to make a statement, that’s a tough way to begin the game.”

Oxford Hills punted on all four of its first-quarter possessions. The Vikings’ defense forced a Portland three-and-out on its first drive. The second time they had the ball, though, the Bulldogs drove 76 yards in eight plays for another touchdown, this one a 3-yard run by Bachelder, to make it 14-0 with less than two minutes to play in the opening period.

The early two-score deficit forced Oxford Hills’ run-oriented offense to throw more than it prefers, and not with much success.


Jake Knop added a 20-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to give Portland a 21-0 halftime lead. The Bulldogs had 167 yards of total offense in the first half, while the Vikings only managed 32.

“Oxford Hills is a very good team and they play really hard,” Bachelder said, “but I feel like we played great on all three sides of the ball.”

Bachelder hooked up with Knop for a 29-yard touchdown on the first drive of the second half, making it 27-0. Dylan Bolduc added a 72-yard touchdown run, and Bachelder a 30-yard scoring strike to a wide-open Franco Lidos to grow the Bulldogs’ lead to 41-0, still in the third quarter.

On the first play of the fourth, Knop ran in from 1 yard out.

The Vikings scored their only touchdown on the next drive. Quarterback Connor Truman found tight end Connor Bickford for a 47-yard gain that moved the ball from Oxford’s 26-yard line to Portland’s 27. Three plays later, sophomore Emerson Brown scored on a 19-yard run.

The Bulldogs then concluded the scoring similar to the way they started it. After the Vikings scored, Pasquali returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.


“Game-breakers,” Portland coach Jim Hartman said. “Special teams win championships.”

Oxford Hills finished the season with an 18-yard run by Spencer Hurd, an 11-yard run by backup quarterback Colton Carson and a 6-yard gain by Cameron Slicer.

Brown, Slicer and Carson are all sophomores who will carry much larger roles next season as the Vikings aim to replicate the success of 2016, if not build on it.

“I think we do have a very bright future,” Soehren said. “Our junior class is very dedicated, our sophomore class, they’ve always been on winning teams.

“I guess if you’re going to look at a bright side, it is that we did get those kids in; they’ve been in a playoff game at Fitzpatrick. I keep saying to myself it’s a process. This is just one more step — a lot further than we’ve been in a long time.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.