PARIS — Led by workhorse running back Colby VanDecker, an improved offensive line and an opportunistic defense, Oxford Hills completely controlled of Friday night’s Class A football quarterfinal.

VanDecker rushed 28 times for 207 yards and three touchdowns while the Vikings’ defense allowed 24 total yards and one first down to a depleted Sanford offense to cruise to a 42-0 win at Gouin Athletic Complex on Friday night.

Fourth-seeded Oxford Hills (6-4) advances to the semifinals to face top-seeded and unbeaten Thornton Academy in next weekend’s semifinals. No. 5 Sanford, which beat Oxford Hills 35-14 in Week 2 in Sanford, ends its season at 4-6.

“Our offensive line definitely stepped it up this week,” VanDecker said. “This week, we definitely could move them around a lot better (than the first game). As the season’s gone on, we’ve definitely shaped up as a team.”

Quarterback Wyatt Knightly threw two touchdown passes and rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown for the Vikings, who shook off an early turnover at the goal line to take a commanding lead in the first half.

The Vikings forced three turnovers that the offense converted into three touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 28-0 halftime lead.

Oxford Hills collected 343 yards on the ground in the game, 432 yards total.

“It all starts with the boys up front, and then the boys up back get it done,” said Knightly, who completed seven of 10 passes for 89 yards. “It helps when you have Colby to hand the ball off to. That really clears up the passing game, because when the boys up front and Colby are getting it done, that opens up some play-action.”

“It meant a lot to us, so we put in the hard work at practice this week,” senior left tackle Garrett Pendexter said. “The coaches told (the offensive line to) push for seven seconds and beat the guy in front of us.”

Sanford recovered an Oxford Hills fumble into the end zone for a touchback on the Vikings’ opening possession. But JJ Worster’s sack of Sanford QB Jake Beninati forced the Spartans to punt with their back to the same end zone.

Taking over at Sanford’s 42, Knightly converted a third-and-2 with a seven-yard run and added a nine-yard gain to set up VanDecker’s 13-yard touchdown run up the middle. Kicker Elias Soehren started his perfect 6-for-6 night with the extra point to make it 7-0.

On the second play of the second quarter, Marcus Stone recovered a fumbled handoff at the Spartans’ 33. VanDecker then ripped off a 22-yard run to set up Knightly’s QB keeper from a yard out for a 14-0 lead.

An interception by Addison Brown on Sanford’s next possession gave the Vikings the ball right back, and they eventually converted it into VanDecker’s 11-yard touchdown run on a counter play.

Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said the Vikings keyed their blocking scheme on standout Sanford senior tackle Reese Boucher.

“We wanted to establish the line of scrimmage,” Soehren said. “We put in some things this week to double-team Reece, and the kids did a good job. I think he’s an outstanding player. We put in an extra tight end to be the one to double him.”

Oxford Hills continued to pour it on as Dakota Grassi picked off Beninati on Sanford’s next play near midfield. On third-and-8 from the 10, Knightly, starting his third game since taking over for injured starter Atticus Soehren, found a wide-open Worster in the middle of the end zone to make it 28-0 with 2:45 left in the half.

VanDecker added a seven-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter and Knightly connected with Brown for a 27-yard scoring strike in the fourth to round out the scoring.

Sanford, which played without standout quarterback Xavier Levine since midseason, also was without a number of other starters and key reserves due to injuries or team discipline, including their top running back, speedy senior Ethan Shain, who was ruled out Monday with an injured shoulder.

“I hate as a coach to even go down these roads, but in three decades we probably haven’t been bit by the injury bug like we have (this season),” said Sanford coach Mike Fallon, who played six sophomores and a freshman Friday. “Too many leaks in the pipe at this point. Oxford Hills is a really good football team. Coach Soehren and his staff have done a great job, and we knew we had our hands full at this point and just didn’t know if we had enough weapons.”

Soehren said the Spartans’ injuries didn’t change the Vikings’ preparation.

“We just prepared for all of their players and the things that we’ve seen them do and they did to us in that (Week 2) game,” Soehren said. “Whoever shows up shows up, and we play whoever’s there. I thought the kids did a really nice job just playing and saying we’re going to play whoever shows up.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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.