The Thornton Academy football team runs drills on Thursday in preparation for Friday’s game at Oxford Hills. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Thornton Academy is undefeated at 6-0, with an average margin of victory just under 38 points per game. Oxford Hills is also 6-0, with an average margin of victory just under 42 points per game.

Ranked first and second in the Varsity Maine football poll, Thornton and Oxford Hills meet Friday night at Gouin Field in Paris. The winner will likely be the top seed in the Class A playoffs.

“There’s certainly a different feel to it,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal.

Thornton Academy’s Anthony Jones carries the ball during a drill Thursday while assistant coaches Mike St. John, left, and Nick Tabor look on. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Oxford Hills passed its first big test of the season on Sept. 25, beating perennial Class A power Bonny Eagle, 19-6. In the past when playing one of the conference powerhouses, the Vikings felt like they had to add a wrinkle to their game plan, hoping to catch their opponent off guard, said Coach Mark Soehren. That’s not the case this season.

“This year, with this group, this week’s focus is on what we need to do well,” Soehren said. “We have more depth than we’ve had. We have the ability to platoon a lot of kids.”

That depth is seen especially on the defensive line, where Soehren says his first- and second-team players are interchangeable. The Vikings have four shutouts this season and haven’t allowed a point since a Bonny Eagle touchdown in the first quarter in Week 4.


Among the players tasked with slowing down the Trojans’ potent offense is linebacker Isaiah Oufiero, who Soehren calls “the life of that defense.” Senior linebacker Wyatt Knightly helps set the edge, along with defensive end Dillon Worster. Defensive backs Tanner Bickford, Elias Soehren (also the Vikings’ quarterback), Dakota Grassi and Lincoln Merrill will have their hands full with Thornton’s deep group of receivers, led by Anthony Jones and Isaiah Jones. Anthony Jones caught seven passes for 65 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 46-7 win over Lawrence.

Thornton Academy quarterback Jack Emerson leads a dynamic offense that averages 47.5 points per game. He ran for two touchdowns and completed 13 of 14 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns last week against Lawrence. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Thornton quarterback Jack Emerson is a threat to run or pass and is coming off a game in which he ran for two touchdowns and completed 13 of 14 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns.

“We have to limit big plays. Their kids are fast and their special teams are great,” Soehren said.

Kezal described the Vikings’ offense as similar to Thornton’s.

“They attack the whole field and are pretty balanced. They create a lot of big plays,” Kezal said.

It’s hard to find any faults with the Trojans’ season thus far. Kezal says, though, that the team needs to be more consistent, using a 35-14 win over Bonny Eagle as an example. Ahead 28-0, Thornton allowed a touchdown just before halftime and another early in the third, and didn’t completely clinch the win until scoring a late touchdown. Too many penalties and sloppy play against a good team will do that, Kezal said.


“At times we can be our worst enemy. We were ahead 28-0, then we got bogged down and lost focus. We need to maintain focus for 48 minutes,” Kezal said.

THE EIGHT-MAN regular season wraps up this weekend, with playoffs beginning next week. Cheverus (4-0) can complete an undefeated regular season with a win over Sacopee Valley and clinch the top seed in the Large School South Division.

“We’re not worried about anything other than this week,” Cheverus Coach Mike Vance said.

The top two teams in the Large School South Division will get a bye into the semifinals. Cheverus had two unwanted byes in the regular season when games were canceled because of COVID-19 outbreaks at other schools, including a game called off against Lake Region minutes before kickoff. Vance isn’t concerned his team may get rusty with another bye week heading into the playoffs.

“We have a mature team this year. We have seniors who have been here. I liked the way we handled the two weeks we got canceled,” Vance said.

In Large School North, Waterville (4-1) plays at Morse (5-1), with the winner claiming the top seed. In Small School North, Mattanawcook (4-1), Dexter (3-1) and Houlton (3-1) are fighting for the top seed. Mattanawcook hosts Dexter this week, while Houlton has a bye week.

At 6-0, Telstar has all but clinched the top seed in Small School South. The Rebels host Traip on Saturday.

AS OF THURSDAY AFTERNOON, only a few games scheduled for this weekend had been canceled because of COVID-19 protocols. Lewiston was scheduled to host Scarborough, but the Red Storm had to cancel. The Blue Devils will now host Bangor, which was available because a COVID-19 outbreak at Sanford wiped out the scheduled Bangor-Sanford game. This will be the second meeting of the season between Bangor and Lewiston. They met in Bangor on Sept. 11, with the Rams taking a 42-6 win.

Maine Central Institute at Old Town also is canceled, and Oceanside’s trip to Belfast was rescheduled for Monday.

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