PARIS — Talking winter sports is all the rage in Oxford Hills, but one huge fall milestone looms: this weekend’s Class A football championship game where the Oxford Hills Vikings go in as the underdogs with a big point to make. They will take on undefeated Thornton Academy, the one team that kept the Vikings from their own perfect season.

Oxford Hills takes on the only opponent that beat them during the regular season, Thornton Academy, this Saturday. A win would bring the Class A football state championship to OHCHS. Courtesy Brewster Burns

The #2 Vikings have advanced to the big game after defeating #3 Bonney Eagle last week with a score of 34 – 7. Originally scheduled for Nov. 12, weather forced a postponement until Saturday.

“Saturday was great weather for a football game,” summarized Oxford Hills Athletic Director Kevin Ryan Monday afternoon. “Our defense played well and our offense executed and played a good game.”

Junior quarterback Eli Soehren took over the reins of game manager this year from his older brother Atticus, who graduated last spring. Eli Soerhen is one of several players on the team with fathers on the coaching staff.

“It was a very successful season,” Ryan said. “We had one loss against Thornton Academy. And that’s who we’ll be playing this Saturday. We’re looking forward to another chance (at them) and see if we can come out on the other end this time.”

With Oxford Hills scoring as much as 77 points per game (against Lewiston in its first game of the season), the only time the score was ever close was in that game against rival Thornton Academy when the Vikings lost 31-23.

“I think our chances are good,” said Ryan of this weekend’s rematch for the state title. “We showed  in the first game that we can play against them. We’re capable of matching up very well. We’ve just got to fix a couple of errors we had in that game and play the way we know how to play.”

One-third of the Vikings’ varsity team is set to graduate in June but Ryan expects the team to continue dominating Class A football next fall.

“We have a good freshman team moving up after this season,” Ryan said. “They will be able to fill some of those holes. Some freshmen and sophomores are already on the varsity team.”

The battle for state champion between Oxford Hills and Thornton Academy starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Portland at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

Oxford Hills’ football team is not the only one to push deep into the playoffs this season. The field hockey team pulled off an 11-5 season and won playoff games against Brewer and Mt Ararat in October before falling to Skowhegan 2-1 in the Class A North regional finals.

“Keeper Gabby Wright was our outstanding player throughout the season,” Ryan said of the team’s goalie, only in her sophomore year. He also singled out praise for teammate Allison Slicer, who was responsible for all Viking scores during its playoff run.

All Oxford Hills athletes had a victorious season this year in that they were able to play all the way through. Not one of the school’s games had to be cancelled due to any student being infected by or exposed to COVID-19. a testament to the school’s commitment to protocols to keep its players safe.

“There were a few games we could not play due to other teams having COVID or issues with quarantines,” Ryan said. Another major opponent to the season was transportation.

“Everyone worked their behinds off, trying to get transportation to work,” Ryan continued. “We had to reschedule start times of some games till bus runs were done and there were instances where one of the teachers on staff who is also a substitute driver, Danny Daniels, fill in some afternoons. He stepped in several times to help get teams to their games.”

Lack of officials is another problem all Maine sports programs have had to deal with. A recent trend of more retirements than entrants into refereeing has increased since the beginning of the pandemic. It remains to be seen how this year’s wrestling season will be scheduled because of it.

“There are lacking of officials in every single sport,” Ryan acknowledged. “Be it COVID or quarantining, to aging out. There are only 18 wrestling officials available from Holden all the way down to Kittery.”

Ryan expressed pride over all of Oxford’s athletes, from the teams that had rough starts and persevered and improved over the season to the number of seniors who earned The Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference academic awards this fall.

“Over 50% of our seniors qualified for the all-academic, all-conference,” Ryan said. “The honor is for students that have averaged grades of 90 or better in their studies during their four years of high school athletics.”

The Viking athletes earning KVAC All Academic Awards this fall are: Nicholas Bancroft, Andrew Merrill, Joseph Beaudet, Thomas Hartnett, Joseph Dawson, Isaac Roy, Donovan Sanborn, Hakon Teceno, Trevor Ward, Jasmin Hayer, Katherine Toohey, Ashley Campbell, Elizabeth Dunn, Chloe Estes, Ashlee Farrar, Abigail Hanson, Matthew Doucette, Dakota Grassi, Jaden Levesque, Brodi Rice, Paul Rudman, Trinity Anne Bernard, Emily Cummings, Isabella DeVivo, Elizabeth Dieterich, Katherine Hallee, Lucy Leonard, Celia Melanson, Sydney Youngs, Kamryn Grover, Holden Rodzen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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