Oxford Hills’ Ryan Metcalf plugs up the middle of the line as he takes down Bonny Eagle running back Zachariah Oja during a Week 4 game in Paris in September. Brewster Burns photo

The Oxford Hills football team is applying what it learned from a 19-6 regular season victory over Bonny Eagle during its preparation for the rematch on Saturday afternoon in the Class A semifinals.

This time around, Vikings coach Mark Soehren knows that facing the third-seeded Scots will be even more challenging. 

“You certainly go back and look at the stuff both teams did,” Soehren said. “It was three or four games in, and both teams have changed considerably. The kids have grown up and their sophomore quarterback isn’t really a sophomore now, he’s had a full season. Bonny Eagle is going to be Bonny Eagle, they are going to do what they do really well, and they’ll have a few wrinkles. They’re going to change. For us, we are just doing what we do well.”

The 19-6 battle, also on a Saturday afternoon at Gouin Field, in Week 4 gave the second-seeded Vikings confidence, but Soehren know from experience the danger of being over-confident.

“I don’t think you can downplay confidence,” Soehren said. “Certainly, beating them once, we know we can beat them, but the second matchup is anyone’s game. You can’t just show up and think you’re going to beat them again. This same thing happened when I played in high school and we beat a team early in the year pretty handedly, and then in the regional final in North Dakota they played us close and we went to overtime. You just don’t know.”

When asked about the bye that Oxford Hills had last week due to being the second seed in Class A, Soehren again pulled from past experience — the Vikings’ run to the Class A North final in 2018 — to show the benefits of a week off.

“We had a bye week in 2018, and that was a good week,” Soehren noted. “We did some competitive stuff, some fundamental stuff. We looked forward to this week. We had a couple injuries, but they rested and they’re back this week. We were able to prepare a little bit and they could rest. I don’t think it’s a negative. The kids love playing Friday nights, but we have to look longer term, and this will help in preparation for that regional final.”

The Vikings’ confidence is high and the bye week provided extra time to heal, but Soehren said that to beat Bonny Eagle again they’ll need to “play a clean game” — they can’t make mistakes like the five second-quarter turnovers that doomed them against Thornton in their only loss of the season.

“They respect who they’re playing,” Soehren said. “In 2018, it was the same way, you just play the team in front of you and you compete and find ways to be successful. That’s what these kids this year have been good at. We found ways in the Thornton Academy game to be successful, but we couldn’t get over the hurdle, and Thornton Academy was too good. Same with Bonny Eagle, it’s tough to overcome mistakes against them. We have to play a clean game to win.”

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