Oxford Hills quarterback Eli Soehren throws a pass during the Class A title game against Thornton Academy last month in Portland. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald

Eli Soehren surpassed even his dad’s expectations for the 2021 season. 

The Oxford Hills junior quarterback threw for 1,904 yards and 25 touchdowns and ran for 903 yards and eight scores while helping the Vikings reach their first state final since 1999.

“I knew he’d be good, but I didn’t know he’d be one of the best players in the state,” Mark Soehren, Oxford Hills’ head coach and Eli’s dad, said.

After the season, Eli Soehren was named the Class A Player of the Year by the classification’s coaches and was chosen as the first-team quarterback and first-team punter, and a second-team defensive back (20 tackles, four interceptions). He also has been selected as the Sun Journal All-Region Football Player of the Year.

Eli Soehren admitted to being nervous heading into his first season as Oxford Hills’ quarterback, but that dissipated in Week 1 against Lewiston

“I hadn’t played at QB in a varsity game,” Eli Soehren said. “It was definitely faster and stuff, but once I got on the field it was just football. It’s what our team does, and that’s what we did.”

Soehren led the Vikings to a 54-0 victory over the Blue Devils, then a 43-0 win over Sanford in Week 2. Two touchdown throws against Sanford, in particular, stood out to his coach.

“He threw his first touchdown pass to the back corner to Teigan Pelletier, and I thought it was ill-advised but it was incredible,” Mark Soehren said. “The next one he threw to the left, rolling out to his right, to Matt Doucette 35-40 (yards through) the air, and it was one of the best throws I’ve seen in person.”

Eli Soehren continued to make dazzling touchdown passes and long touchdown runs all season.

“The biggest thing was confidence, and my teammates are really good,” Eli Soehren said. “I have to credit them. They got open, I just had to see them and throw it to them, and I knew they could make plays, and that’s what they did.”

Mark Soehren knew Eli could run with the football, but a preseason run against Brunswick in the preseason provided a hint of how effective he could be with this legs.

“I definitely planned on using him as a running quarterback, as well, but I didn’t think he had 900 yards in him,” Mark Soehren said. “I wouldn’t say Eli is better, but he challenged (former Oxford Hills quarterback) Colton Carson there. In our first preseason game against Brunswick, I didn’t really plan on using him as a runner, and we were going to use that at Lewiston. I improvised on a run play for Eli, and he made three spectacular moves for 65 yards and I thought, ‘Maybe he is a good runner, too.’”

The Vikings coach said Eli Soehren was able to read defenses at an elite level, too, which made his running more effective.

“I had no idea he was able to run the ball like he did,” Mark Soehren said. “He had some game-turning runs. Against Skowhegan, on the first play from scrimmage, they did a hook-and-ladder and he turned an ankle on the tackle and he was kind of frightened when he came off the field.

“It was a close game near the end of the game, and he had a run where he read the outside linebacker, and I mentioned it to him in passing and said, ‘If the outside linebacker isn’t there you can pull it.’ That’s what he did and ran for a 60-yard touchdown run and that was a huge moment for us and the team. Those things you just don’t know he would be able to do because not a lot of quarterbacks can read the defensive end and the outside linebacker.”

Reading defenses and deciding when to tuck the ball and run with it himself became a natural part of Eli Soehren’s game. However, other decisions didn’t come so easy, such as when to take a sack or throw the ball away. In the Vikings’ regular season matchup with Thornton Academy, Soehren turned the ball over five times in a 31-23 loss.

“You can’t force it,” Eli Soeren said. “If the guy is open, the guy is open, and if he isn’t then throw it away. You can’t take those chances sometimes, and I did and I can’t do that next year. I made some mistakes, and that game was one of the faster games I’ve played in. You can’t really make excuses about five turnovers. I learned from that game and moved on from it.”

Mark Soehren cites a moment in Oxford Hills’ rematch with the Trojans in the Class A championship game that showed improvement in Eli’s decision making. 

“Even in the state championship game, on what ended up being our last touchdown drive he was like, ‘We gotta go, we can’t huddle up,’” Mark Soehren said. “I didn’t stop him, I let him go and he called it at the line and then threw his touchdown pass to Teigan. He saw that occasionally, and he ended up making it work. He always told coaches he wanted to run certain plays, and he had a sense that speaks to his competitiveness. He always has a lot of fun with it, it’s like a puzzle finding ways to get better and finding ways to score.”

Thornton won the rematch, 42-27, and the Class A title, but Eli Soehren threw only two interceptions. He also improved from two interceptions to zero in the Vikings’ two wins over Bonny Eagle.

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