On occasion, the Sun Journal sports staff will pick high school football topics to discuss — sometimes the discussions will turn into spirited debates.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know via Twitter (@WilTalkSports and @_Lee_H) or email (wkramlich@sunjournal.com and lhorton@sunjournal.com).

Sun Journal sports editor Lee Horton Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEE HORTON: We’ve reached Week 6, so as of last Saturday every team has played at least half of their regular season games. Two of the undefeated teams in the Sun Journal’s coverage area were near the top of their classes and regions last year, and heading into this week’s games are alone at the top: Oxford Hills and Leavitt.

Both teams still have some tough games over the next three or four weeks, so there is no guarantee that either will maintain its standing. But, clearly, things are going well in both programs. You’ve covered both squads the past couple of seasons. What makes these two programs so good?

Sun Journal assistant sports editor Wil Kramlich Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

WIL KRAMLICH: Oxford Hills and Leavitt both have depth of talent, and they know how to use it.

The Vikings have last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year in senior quarterback Eli Soehren. And Leavitt junior QB Noah Carpenter is having a season worthy of top-player honors.

Beyond those two, both programs have harvested and nurtured rosters full of great players from strong youth programs that are connected to the varsity teams and their respective coaching staffs. By the way, those coaches, Leavitt’s Mike Hathaway and Oxford Hills’ Mark Soehren, have each been in their respective positions for a while now, and that continuity is vital for program success.


HORTON: Before I give my thoughts, let’s also ask Sun Journal staff writer Nathan Fournier to chime in, since he saw Oxford Hills play last week when it defeated Lewiston 45-8.

Sun Journal sports reporter Nathan Fournier. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

NATHAN FOURNIER: Mark Soehren spoke after the Lewiston game about the depth at the skill positions and trying to get everyone touches. I thought they did a good job of spotlighting different players throughout the game.

During the first couple of drives, Oxford Hills got Trey Morrison going and he scored the first two touchdowns. Later in the game, Lincoln Merrill had a big run that set up a score by Hunter Tardiff. Teigan Pelletier caught two touchdown passes, and fellow wide receiver Tanner Bickford helped move the offense down the field with a couple of big plays to get them near the red zone. Soehren talked about the heights of Pelletier, Bickford and Merrill — they are all 6-foot-2 or taller — and that the Vikings try to use that to their advantage. Both Eli Soehren and Brady Truman saw time at QB, and the offense didn’t miss a beat with either of them on the field.

I can see why teams have trouble defending Oxford Hills because if they game plan against one player, that will leave someone else open or with a chance to have a big game.

HORTON: Fournier brings up something that highlights what Kramlich meant when he wrote that both teams “have depth of talent, and they know how to use it.” Lincoln Merrill is a tight end, but his 32-yard run was Oxford Hills’ longest rushing play of Saturday’s game. He’s one of the Vikings’ best players, so they found a creative way to get him the ball. They did a lot of that against Lewiston.

Leavitt has long been the master of this. Noah Carpenter, as the quarterback, will always be involved in many of the scoring plays. But look at the Hornets scoring plays for every game and you’ll see several different names, including but not limited to Will Keach, Maddox Demers, Brett Coburn, Dayton Calder and Sawyer Hathaway.


Also, both programs always have strong, well-coached linemen.

Wil mentioned the feeder programs and the longstanding head coaches. To the latter, I’ll add that both programs have several dedicated assistant coaches. Leavitt’s staff is filled with former head coaches, and they seem to stick around for a while, so egos must not be an issue. The Vikings’ assistants are all about Oxford Hills football — most of them are alumni and/or coaches of other sports.

So, in summary, Oxford Hills and Leavitt are so good because of a combination of talent, depth, smart coaching, good feeder programs …

I’d say that’s a recipe for success.

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