Riding home with a win always makes the long bus trip back from Bangor a little easier for Oxford Hills. But the Vikings were still a little uneasy after Friday night’s 34-7 regular-season-finale victory over the Rams.

The Vikings (5-4) remained in suspense until Saturday when the final official Crabtree points standings were released showing they had leap-frogged Sanford (4-5), which lost to Bonny Eagle on Friday, for the No. 4 seed in Class A.

As a result, Oxford Hills will host Sanford in the quarterfinals next Friday night at 7 p.m. at Gouin Athletic Complex. It is the fourth year in a row the Vikings have hosted a playoff game.

“I know their schedule was a little more difficult than ours, so we didn’t know for sure,” Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said. “After we won at Bangor, I told the kids we just didn’t know. We’d have to get it confirmed (Saturday) once we saw the official Crabtrees.”

“It’s a big deal,” Soehren added. “We’ve traveled to Sanford twice and it didn’t go well for us.”

The Vikings have lost in Sanford each of the last two years, including a 35-14 loss in Week 2 this season.

“I think this year, we’ve struggled a little bit on the road, too,” said Soehren, whose team is 2-3 away from Gouin. “So it was nice to go up to Bangor and play pretty well, and then it’s nice to get a home game against Sanford. They’ve got to travel a couple of hours.”

Oxford Hills suffered a late-season blow when starting junior quarterback Atticus Soehren, the coach’s son, suffered a season-ending injury to his right (throwing) shoulder.

“We can’t quite figure out when (the injury occurred),” Mark Soehren said. “I would say he’s taken big hits from the biggest, best player on every team we’ve played. He got hit pretty good in Gorham (in Week 6) on a pass, landed on his right shoulder. He stuck it out. He threw for 250 yards and he said, ‘I still feel like I can throw.”

“In the Thornton Academy game (the following week), he got blind-sided at the end of the half — it wasn’t a cheap shot or anything — and landed on his shoulder after he threw the ball,” he added. “He knew he’d hurt it a little bit then but he didn’t really say anything. Then at half he said it was bothering him a little bit, but he wasn’t under-throwing guys. He was still completing passes.”

Atticus Soehren rested during the following week of practice, then tried to throw the day before the Vikings’ Oct. 25 loss to Scarborough.

“We were all surprised. He said he just couldn’t throw,” Soehren said. “The next day, we walked in at the OA clinic in Auburn. They told him (after examining him) that he was out for that game, and then we got the MRI and he had a slight separation posteriorly, which is very unusual. But the good news is that he should have a full recovery and no lingering issues.”

Sophomore Wyatt Knightly stepped into the starting QB role against Scarborough and has performed well under the circumstances, Soehren said.

“He’s young, but he’s a good athlete and he’s a good passer. He’s a little bigger than Atticus,” Soehren said. “And then we have my other son, Elias (a freshman), whose built about the same as Wyatt. They’re both very capable backups.”

“For us, it’s a little bit less of a passing game, although Wyatt’s thrown for over 100 yards in both of the past two games,” Soehren said. “But certainly game-planning changes a little bit with the things we do. You just can’t teach him all of the game experience Atticus had this year. But the kids are confident with him and he’s a confident kid.”

Regardless of who has taken snaps, the Vikings have been a bit inconsistent offensively all season. They’ve stressed establishing the line of scrimmage, “and I thought we did a really nice job of that in the second half at Bangor,” Soehren said.

Running back Colby VanDecker rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries at Bangor, while Knightly completed 57 percent of his passes for 132 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Isaiah Oufiero caught three passes for 59 yards and a score.

“We’ve got some weapons,” said Soehren, who added his team is otherwise in pretty good health. “We’ve just got to make sure we use them and get that offensive line to block and give us some holes.”

KNIGHTS WINGED IT

Poland’s season ended Friday night with an all-too-familiar result, a 49-16 loss to York in the Class C South quarterfinals. The loss dropped the Knights to 1-8. But coach Spencer Emerson was pleased with how his team stayed focused, especially considering the fact that they had to learn a completely contrasting offense from the spread they normally run.

“We came out and competed,” Emerson said. “We had a game plan that was a little different from what I know as a coach. We ran some double-wing under center to try to get the clock going in our direction and move the ball and establish the run. It worked out. It was 14-8 in the middle of the second quarter and we were feeling good.”

York’s firepower ultimately proved to be too much for the Knights, whose only win came on Sep. 27 against Lake Region.

Poland had high hopes going into the season after finishing 3-6 last year in Class D in Emerson’s first season at the helm. But injuries and the move up to Class C made the schedule tougher.

“We ended up being fairly healthy for the playoff game, but we were down about five starters for the (Oct. 18) Freeport game. I don’t think we’d played with everybody since we’d won,” Emerson said. “At our lowest point, we had 25 in pads when we played Fryeburg (on Oct. 12).”

The Knights lost a number of key players due to concussions, including wide receiver/defensive back Gage Bachelder, running back/linebacker Joe Ringuette and wide receiver/defensive back Isaiah Hill, all juniors.

“It was really tough. We felt like last year we’d had success and we thought we were going to build on that and do really well,” Emerson said. “But mixing the injuries and the schedule kind of made that recipe for really tough sledding for us.”

Emerson praised senior QB Brady Downing for staying positive while facing some teams such as Leavitt, Wells and York with limited weapons and/or inexperienced linemen throughout the season.

“He hung in there,” Emerson said. “I wish we could have protected him a little bit more. (Friday night) we dropped three first downs and dropped one touchdown. I can’t say enough good things about Brady Downing. He’s just a competitor and a really, really high-level person.”

RED EDDIES WENT OFF THE HOOK

Edward Little’s offense wasn’t the smoothest in the first half, but a more spread-out approach in the second half opened up the game and let quarterback Giles Paradie put together a couple of long, rhythmic drives against Lewiston on Friday night.

Lewiston’s Dominick Colon, right, forces Edward Little quarterback Giles Paradie into the end zone where he lost the ball and Lewiston scored a safety during the opening drive of Friday night’s game at Walton Field in Auburn. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In each half the Red Eddies converted a successful hook-and-ladder play in the Lewiston secondary, both going for long gains.

Paradie dropped back twice Friday and found Noah Jordan on the left side of the field before a sweeping Cam Yorke caught a lateral and took it another chunk of yards.

It wasn’t much, but it kept drives going when EL struggled to find offense.

Lewiston coach Darren Hartley was weary of the Eddies opening up the offense, but in the first half his Blue Devils had a game plan to stifle the cross-bridge rivals.

“If Edward Little came out and tried to come out and play balanced defensively, we felt our package could play with their balanced offense,” Hartley said. “You’ll note in the second half, when they spread us out, they’re a handful.”

In the second half, Paradie led drives of 67 and 66 yards, the former ending in a touchdown run by the QB.

The Eddies hope the spread attack is successful in the Class A quarterfinal Friday against undefeated and defending state champ Thornton Academy.

RAIDERS GETTING IN LINE

Oak Hill’s depth along the line of scrimmage is paying dividends.

“I think they’re maybe our most improved positions offensively,” Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette said following Saturday’s 41-8 Class D South first-round win over Madison. “Defensively, we’re still coming along.”

The Raiders went into the season expecting the competition for playing time derived from their depth along the lines would accelerate the group’s development. But it’s taken some time to get the group to jell.

Two-way standout senior Kyle Stilkey said the Raiders started to click during their 21-14 crossover loss at unbeaten Bucksport on Oct. 11.

“I think our turning point was Bucksport,” Stilkey said. “We played a powerhouse in the North and we came to play. We had a dogfight against them. We still have a way up to go, but we’re getting there. We’re all working as a unit. Like Coach says, we’ve got to fit the gears, and we’re starting to do that. It’s all a team effort.”

“We went back to basics,” Doucette said. “We went back to fundamentals and it’s helped us.”

Players continue to battle for playing time, even as the Raiders prepare for next Saturday’s semifinal game at rival Lisbon.

“There is still competition. Kids are competing for reps still, weekly. But we’ve got work to do,” Doucette said.


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