Oxford Hills’ Marcus Stone, left, and Ty LeBlond stuff Bangor’s Eli Bradford during a game at Gouin Athletic Complex in Paris in September 2018. LeBlond, a junior, is playing a bigger role for the Vikings this season. Brewster Burns photo

Realignment in Class A sparked a great deal of discussion about how former A North teams such as Oxford Hills would fare in more direct competition against former A South teams Thornton Academy, Scarborough and Bonny Eagle.

Frequently overlooked in those discussions was Sanford. The snub is somewhat understandable because the “other” three southern Maine teams have combined to win the past seven Class A state championships, while Sanford hasn’t take home a gold ball since 1998.

Don’t tell Oxford Hills that the Spartans don’t belong in the discussion, though. Last year, they were one of only two teams, along with Portland, to beat the Vikings. The 20-6 slugfest was Sanford’s first at its new home field, Alumni Stadium, and represented the fewest points the Vikings scored in a game all season.

The teams return to Alumni Stadium on Friday night in what could be a critical game to playoff seeding down the line. On paper, the Vikings and Spartans appeared to be the top teams in the tier below the Thornton-Scarborough-Bonny Eagle power trio, which, if Class A does shake out that way, could make this game the deciding factor in who gets home field if these two meet again in the quarterfinals.

Sanford is coming off of an impressive performance, albeit a 27-13 loss, against Thornton Academy in Week 1. The Spartans took the lead on the defending champions on their first play from scrimmage, a 72-yard touchdown pass from QB Xavier Levine to running back Ethan Shain. After TA tied it, Levine threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Leyton Bickford and Sanford took a 13-7 lead into halftime.

Thornton shut out Sanford in the second half, but Levine finished 10-for-12 for 111 yards and the two scores while also rushing for 77 yards on 14 carries.

Now a senior, Levine starred in last year’s win over the Vikings, going 12-for-16 for 170 yards and two TDs. Bickford was his top target, making four catches for 72 yards. He also picked off a Colton Carson pass near the Vikings’ goal-line and stepped in for a touchdown.

While the Spartans’ defense dominated last year’s game, Oxford Hills will present a very different look this year. That starts at quarterback, where Atticus Soehren, coach Mark Soehren’s son, takes over for Carson. The sophomore threw a pair of touchdowns in last week’s 40-0 win over Lewiston and made use of his numerous weapons, particularly Colby VanDecker (120 yards rushing), Ty LeBlond, Addison Brown and JJ Worster.

The Vikings’ defense lived up to its preseason billing from the start against the Blue Devils. They forced a fumble on Lewiston’s first series that Cade Truman scooped up and ran 30 yards for a touchdown. Worster and Cole Dunham are other leaders on a unit that will need to contain Levine in the pocket and maintain its tackling fundamentals against tough senior running back Caleb Saucier, Sanford’s leading rusher last year.

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