Oxford Hills’ Cole Dunham gets ahold of Bonney Eagle’s Will Whyte during the teams’ matchup in 2018. Brewster Burns photo

It has probably never been louder at the Gouin Athletic Complex than it was the night of Oct. 5, 2018, right after Oxford Hills’ Michael Bonang clinched a 31-22 win over unbeaten Bonny Eagle with his second interception of the second half.

The veteran Vikings improved to 5-1 with the victory and proved that they were a team to reckon with in Class A North. The Vikings, who went on to reach the regional final for the first time in nearly two decades, knew a win over the premier program in the state (six titles this century) was a signal that they had arrived.

The loss sent the young Scots into a tailspin. They dropped three of their next four in Class A South, and the win was a first-round playoff forfeit by South Portland. The three losses came against the two best teams in Class A, Scarborough (twice) and eventual state champion Thornton Academy, but that probably didn’t make the fact that it all began at Gouin any easier to swallow in retrospect.

Nearly one year later, Oxford Hills and Bonny Eagle (3-0) are in direct competition in the consolidated eight-team Class A. The Vikings (2-1) are virtually unrecognizable from the Colton Carson-led offense that carved up the Scots through the air in the third quarter to rally from a 15-7 halftime deficit.

Minus last year’s top running back, Will Whyte, who as a senior rushed for 125 yards and scored two touchdowns in a losing cause, the Scots are virtually identical at the skill positions. That includes senior running back Zach Maturo, who rushed for 139 yards last year against Oxford Hills, and senior quarterback Keegan Meredith, who had a touchdown pass.

The Scots have plenty of other weapons, including senior running back Nate Ferris, who piled up 175 yards in last week’s 41-22 win over Class B contender Kennebunk. In that game, they also unveiled a new threat, junior wide receiver Jacob Humphrey, who had seven catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns.

One of the keys to stopping Humphrey and, more importantly, Meredith (9-for-13, 143 yards, three TDs vs. Kennebunk) is finding ways around and through Bonny Eagle’s tough physical offensive line.

Oxford Hills’ defense has had its ups and down in the early season, with a 35-17 road loss to Sanford sandwiched between a pair of home shutout victories over Lewiston and Falmouth/Greely. It may not face a more balanced offense than the Scots, whose 36.3 points per game is tops in Class A, and the Vikings will need to eliminate the big passing plays it allowed against Sanford, which means getting consistent pressure on Meredith.

Only Bonny Eagle has outscored Oxford Hills (34 ppg) this season in Class A. But like the defense, the offense has been uneven so far, scoring 40 against Lewiston before Sanford limited it to two touchdowns, then bouncing back with 48 points against Falmouth/Greely. The Vikings have moved the ball well throughout, though, and never more efficiently through the air than last week. Sophomore QB Atticus Soehren went 9-for-9 for 197 yards and four TDs against the Yachtsmen. Isaiah Oufiero caught two of the touchdown passes, while JJ Worster and Addison Brown caught one apiece.

The Vikings were deadly on the ground, too, thanks to bruising running back Colby VanDecker, who rushed for 227 yards and two scores on 22 carries. He’s topped the century mark in all three games this season. If he and Soehren can move the chains, extend drives and control the football, they will be doing the defense a big favor.

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