SOUTH PARIS — It wasn’t the senior night Ty LeBlond envisioned six years or even six months ago, but that didn’t stop him and Oxford Hills’ other seniors from leaving their mark.

It also hasn’t been the football season Lewiston senior quarterback Aiden Charest was holding out hope for when he transferred from rival Edward Little last summer, but he certainly can’t complain about getting a lot of chances to throw the ball.

LeBlond, Charest and their two teams converged at a waterlogged Gouin Athletic Complex Wednesday night for 7-on-7 touch football, this fall’s stand-in for 11-on-11 tackle football due to the coronavirus.

The Vikings got the better of the second half, 28-0, which was the only half the teams played a more traditional brand of football. The teams spent the first half alternating possessions and trying to get as many possessions and scores in as they could in a 15-minute period.

After getting off to a slow start in the first half, Oxford Hills senior QB Atticus Soehren connected with LeBlond on three touchdown passes and threw a fourth to junior Isaiah Oufiero in the second half.

Vikings defenders such as Dakota Grassi (interception) made it tough for the Blue Devils all night. With senior parents in attendance for the traditional senior night pregame festivities, Oxford Hills’ own passing game sputtered at first on the slick grass before finding a rhythm.

“You have to bring your own energy,” LeBlond said. ” It’s a little harder because there’s no crowd …”

“And no contact,” chimed in Oufiero.

Oufiero quickly noted the players can’t afford to misconstrue lack of contact for lack of competition.

“It’s really showed us it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, or no matter what form of football it is, you’re going to have to compete if you want to win,” Oufiero said. “There’s no sitting back and expecting other guys to make plays. You’ve got to come out ready to play every time.”

The lack of contact goes against a football player’s instincts, which still occasionally take over despite the no-contact, one-hand touch rules. Lewiston had a long interception return by Jaiden Caron called back because one of his teammates did what defensive players do when someone forces a turnover and has visions of a pick-six, which is block for their teammate.

Lewiston coach Darren Hartley doesn’t mind his players thinking about finding someone to hit or feeling a bit like fish out of water in non-contact football.

“We enjoy (7-on-7), it’s just such a smaller part of how we designed our offense and where we are right now in our program,” Hartley said. “We’re a couple of years away, really. We want to run the football. But you can’t run the ball in 7-on-7.”

The Devils’ pass defense should grow going up against high-powered passing games such as Oxford Hills’ and Leavitt’s this fall. And the offense is taking advantage of the opportunity to improve even if it’s forced to go against the ground-and-pound identity Hartley wants to build.

Hartley reminded the Devils after the game that 7-on-7 is a tool for them to get better, not a way to define the program.

“I just don’t want our kids to get down playing against elite personnel with many years under their belt,” Hartley said. “I can’t try to express to these guys enough, we don’t have pads on. We’re not hitting people. We’re just trying to turn our program back into a very physical, fast, defensive-oriented, run-downhill-oriented team, because that’s what we feel like we have for talent. And a lot of those components you just can’t see (in 7-on-7).”

Freshman Dylan Allen split time with Charest at quarterback in the first half and connected with Caron on a touchdown pass. The strong-armed Charest took plenty of shots deep downfield to Caron and Danny May, and he appreciates how 7-on-7 is at least giving him the chance to be the gunslinger every quarterback wants to be.

“It’s good for us quarterbacks, we get to throw it every play,” Charest said. “It’s what we wish we could do in a regular season. We can air it out and make some plays.”

“We obviously want to play better than we did tonight,” added Charest, who will experience the Battle of the Bridge, at least a facsimile of it, from the opposite sideline than he us used to when the Blue Devils play Edward Little on Oct. 30. “Last week (against Brunswick), we played great. We’ve just got to do better going forward, and I’m definitely glad that I’m here to do it.”

LeBlond was glad to be there, too, even if it wasn’t the senior night of his dreams.

“Senior night is something you look forward to, coming all the way up through, sophomore, junior year,” LeBlond said. “We’ve just got to make the best of it. It’s obviously not what we want, but we’ve still got to come out and compete, because at the end of the day, it’s about the team. I can’t say, ‘Aw, my senior year’s not how I want it to be,’ because we’ve still got this whole team here.”


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