Lawrence Program Cover: For the Lawrence game, the program cover was illustrated by freshman football player Don Cash

Lawrence Program Cover: For the Lawrence game, the program cover was illustrated by freshman
football player Don Cash

Lawrence Program Inside Pages: Player names aside, the number of players participating in high school football on both teams 50 years ago is notable

Lawrence Program Inside Pages: Player names aside, the number of players participating in high school
football on both teams 50 years ago is notable

Bleacher Project: Oxford Hills Booster Club volunteers unload bleacher sections prior to installing them in time for the Lawrence game played on October 1, 1971

Bleacher Project: Oxford Hills Booster Club volunteers unload bleacher sections prior to installing them
in time for the Lawrence game played on October 1, 1971

This is the sixth installment in a series recapping the 50th anniversary of the Oxford Hills 10-1 1971 football season.
Oxford Hills ran up a 27-0 first-half advantage and then withstood a ferocious Lawrence High second-half rally to post a 34-12 Pine Tree Conference win before 2,800 fans at Viking Field. With Morse having lost last week to Winslow by the same razor-thin 13-12 tally that carried the Vikings over the Black Raiders in the conference opener, the victory put OH at the top of the Coastal Division with a 4-0 mark, 5-0 overall. Skowhegan remained the leader of the Inland Division, also at 4-0.

As usual, the Hillsmen were heavily outweighed upfront but managed enough holes to spring halfback Larry Durgin and fullback Peter Brown. Quarterback Brad Cummings got the time he needed to connect on four of seven passes for 83 yards.

The Viking defense owned the game in the first half, limiting Lawrence to 37 yards rushing and just six yards passing. Middle linebacker Ron Somers again sparked the defense with two crucial interceptions to go along with 20 tackles (eight unassisted and 12 assisted).

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The Hills scored the second time it took possession. Starting at the L-43 after a Bulldog punt, Cummings hit end Billy Brooks on a 38-yarder to the L-5. Halfback Reggie Olmstead picked up three yards, followed by Brown blasting into the end zone from two yards out. Dave Daniels missed the extra point but came back to hit on his next four attempts.

After Brooks intercepted a Paul Cairnie pass at the OH-22, the next drive lasted just three plays as Durgin took a third-down handoff and electrified the home crowd with a 73-yard scoring jaunt, getting good interference from Brooks over the final 25 yards. It was Durgin’s second-longest run of the year. Three weeks ago, he turned in a memorable 80-yarder against Winslow after catching a Cummings pass in the flat.

Lawrence took the next kickoff at its 34-yard line, but things quickly went from bad to worse. End Blane Morse broke through to dump Cairnie for a 17-yard loss, followed by linebacker RIck Micklon dropping end Lenny Cole for another loss on the next play. Then the Lawrence punt went out of bounds at the L-24. On first down, end Hal Edwards scampered 24 yards for the score on an end-around play.

The Vikes weren’t finished ringing up first-half points on their newly-installed electric scoreboard. After the defense held Lawrence at the L-46, OH put together a 12-play drive, with Durgin scoring from four yards out to close the half at 27-0. Somers snagged one of his interceptions to stop a drive just before halftime.

The second half looked like a complete turnaround. Starting from its own 15-yard line, OH was backed up to the two. Durgin’s quick kick was blocked and recovered by Mark Redman in the end zone for a Bulldog touchdown. The missed conversion try made it 27-6. OH fumbled the ball back to the visitors a series later at the L-48. Ron Waldron ran for 21 yards on two carries, and two plays later, Cole hit Cairnie for a 30-yard strike on an option play to make it 27-12.

The Vikes failed to move on the next drive and the Bulldogs came roaring back. A Cole pass to Cairnie gained 20 yards to midfield. The same combination got 20 more yards on the next play, but Cairnie fumbled after being tackled by end Roby Baker, who also made the recovery at the OH-30. That set the stage for the lone OH scoring drive in the second half, an effort keyed by a pair of 24-yard pass plays, one to Durgin to get the team across midfield, and the other to Brooks to reach the end zone. Daniels wrapped it up at 34-12.

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Next up: Back on the road again, this time to Farmington for another PTC outing against Mt. Blue.

Bob Moorehead covered the 1971 Oxford Hills football team as a general assignment reporter for the Portland Press Herald and Sunday Telegram. He later served the Guy Gannett Newspapers as a sports editor, city editor, managing editor, and general manager. Paul Ricci and Brian Partridge (both OHHS Class of 1972) conceived the idea for the series and provided extensive research. Readers who would like to share any favorite memories or stories from the 1971 season are encouraged to E-Mail either of them at [email protected] or [email protected]

Player perspective:
By Paul Ricci (senior center and defensive tackle on the 1971 team)
Although it is easy to remember the 1971 season because of the success that we had on the field, it was also memorable in how the local fan interest continued to grow week after week, resulting in enormous crowds for the games, both home and away. While Bob Moorehead’s article above pegged the Viking Field attendance at 2,800 for the Lawrence game, another newspaper account estimated it to be between 3,500 and 4,000. Regardless of the precise number, Oxford Hills football became the center of attention that fall, and looking back, the Oxford Hills Booster Club deserved much of the credit. Up until two seasons beforehand, Viking home games were daylight affairs played on Pine Street in South Paris at what was the Oxford Hills Junior High School field. Back then, despite the high school having been relocated to its current spot on the Norway-Paris line, it did not have its own field. That situation changed dramatically in 1970, when the Vikings unveiled a new gridiron complete with lights, thanks to Booster Club efforts spearheaded by Bob Hobbs.

Primary drivers for the new field and lights were larger crowds and better control of those crowds. As a freshman and sophomore, I went to all of the home games, and I recall that many fans would simply stand on the bluff alongside the A.C. Lawrence leather tannery overlooking the field, with few buying a ticket. While it was a great venue for spectators, it was not especially good for generating gate receipts!!

With the move to the high school, significantly more fans could attend because of the extra bleacher seating that had been installed. Another Booster project that was finished just in time for the Lawrence game included not only the new electric scoreboard mentioned in this week’s article but also another expansion of the bleacher seating.

On the previous Sunday, after the Viking victory over Madison the day before, two flatbed trucks traveled from Norway-Paris to Ellsworth and back, arriving in the late afternoon around 4:30. Within an hour-and-a-half, a team of 20 Booster volunteers had erected all of the new seating, helping to achieve the club’s goal of creating one of the best football set-ups in the entire state. As one of the players that benefitted from the Booster efforts, I now realize how fortunate all of us in the community were to have been a part of such an atmosphere 50 years ago. Exciting times indeed!!

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