No one on the Oxford Hills defense is a hero.

That’s not to say there haven’t been any big-time plays or standout performances from Vikings defenders throughout the season, but the reason Oxford Hills has been so stingy about giving up points this year is because the defense has been a well-oiled machine with all its parts working together.

“Our defense is big, strong and physical, complemented by some tremendous leadership,” defensive coordinator Nate Danforth said. “The thing that stands out to me is the accountability piece. Week in and week out, they play hard for each other. We have a saying, it’s ‘play for the man next to you.’ I think the guys have embraced that mentality, and it shows on the field.”

The Vikings have allowed a total of 77 points all season, which comes out to an average of 8.56 points across nine games.

Oxford Hills’ Isaiah Oufiero and Wyatt Knightly take down Bonny Eagle receiver Aidan Walcott during their game at the Gouin Athletic Complex in Paris on Saturday. Brewster Burns photo

“The players are very good at doing their own jobs. They do not try and do too much,” head coach Mark Soehren said. “There is a high level of trust between all of the players and they are not worried about their teammates doing their jobs. It makes it easy to go about doing your own job when you are not worried about other people doing theirs.”

The dominant performance of the defense throughout the regular season and postseason actually began before the season, when the Vikings took part in summer 7-on-7 action.

“Not many teams scored on us this summer, so we hoped that would translate when we put on the pads,” Soehren said. “With our size and speed and summer turnout we expected to have a good defense.”

Danforth said the team also worked hard during the summer workouts to become better football players.

“We had a great turnout at our strength and agility workouts,” Danforth said. “I knew if I could get the right personnel locked in positionally, along with our incredible depth, we could be really talented.”

Oxford Hills’ Dakota Grassi puts a hard hit on Bangor’s Ben Caron after a short gain during the regular-season finale in Paris on Oct. 29. Brewster Burns photo

Soehren credited Danforth with putting the right pieces in place.

“We knew we had two very deep classes in a row and had been looking at who we want to play at certain positions. Coach Danforth wanted to put our basketball players at (defensive back) and we ended up teaching kids 6-foot-1 to 6-5 to be DBs and move in space,” Soehren said. “We also knew we had size and some pure hitters at linebacker.”

Those linebackers include seniors Isaiah Oufiero, Trevor Danforth and Wyatt Knightly. Soehren also highlighted defensive end Zach Louvat, defensive tackle John Hatcher, and defensive backs Dakota Grassi, Lincoln Merrill and Eli Soehren as key pieces to the defense.

“Our defense takes a ton of pride in our performance, we work well together, have good communication, and trust that each player will execute on every play,” Trevor Danforth said.

The younger Danforth, son of the defensive coordinator, said his team’s defense is the best in the state.

“My teammates and I have always had a love for defense,” Trevor Danforth said. “We love to hit hard and be physical. Our goal is always to hit our opponents as hard as we can.”

Oxford Hills’ Zach Louvat and Trevor Danforth combine to tackle Bangor’s Ryan Howard during the regular-season finale in Paris on Oct. 29. Brewster Burns photo

The defense showed its potential from the first game of the season, shutting out Lewiston on the road. The Vikings followed that up with another shutout against Sanford. Soehren noted how hard shutouts are to come by, but the Vikings produced four of them during the season.

After giving up a pair of touchdowns at Skowhegan, the Vikings allowed just one against Bonny Eagle at home. Soehren said that performance was encouraging. Nate Danforth said he was proud of how his defense played in both games against the Scots, including last weekend’s playoff win.

“Bonny Eagle was predicted to have the best offensive line in the state,” senior Trevor Danforth added, “and both times we played them we held them to one touchdown each game.”

The Vikings pitched consecutive shutouts against Edward Little and Massabesic after the first Bonny Eagle meeting, before losing at home against Thornton Academy, 31-23.

“I thought we had a great game plan going into that game, and thought we did well at times against them,” Nate Danforth said. “That loss has really fueled the fire for us defensively.”

Oxford Hills now gets another shot at the Golden Trojans in Saturday’s Class A state final. Soehren said continued stout play by the defense will be critical.

“The winning team will not give up big plays for touchdowns,” he said. “If the offense is to score, the defense must make them execute a number of plays in a row without error. It’s hard for high school offenses to do that.”

The defense can be the hero for the Vikings on Saturday. It just has to follow the same script that it has all season.

“We have to play this game just like we have the rest, and show up ready to battle,” Trevor Danforth said.

Related Headlines


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.

filed under: