Oxford Hills entered the season planning to use Trey Morrison and its other running backs as ball carriers more often.

In 2021, quarterback Eli Soehren was the Vikings’ top rusher — and for good reason, as he racked up nearly 1,000 yards on the ground to complement a prolific passing game — in Oxford Hills’ run to the Class A state final.

The Vikings (10-0) have earned their way back to the title game, where they will face Thornton Academy (8-2), which won last year’s state championship, at Portland’s Fitzpatrick Stadium on Saturday at 11 a.m.

Oxford Hills’ Trey Morrison runs through a hole early in the first quarter of a Class A semifinal football game against Bonny Eagle at Gouin Athletic Complex in Paris on Nov. 11. Morrison, a senior, leads the Vikings in rushing this season with 876 yards and nine touchdowns. Brewster Burns photo

Oxford Hills brings an even better offense to the state final than what its had last year.

Soehren, the 2021 Gatorade and Class A player of the year, has tall, athletic weapons to throw the ball to, namely Teigan Pelletier, Tanner Bickford, Lincoln Merrill and Grayson Foster. The Vikings also have a more diversified run game. This year, Morrison is the one approaching 1,000 yards, having gained a team-leading 876 yards and running for a team-high nine touchdowns so far this season.

“Trey has ended up doing just a phenomenal job,” Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said.


Oxford Hills’ goal became a requirement early in the second game of the season when Soehren was injured against Thornton in a rematch of last year’s Class A state championship game.

Brady Truman replaced Soehren at quarterback, and he played brilliantly, throwing for 271 yards in the Vikings’ 25-20 victory.

Truman isn’t the same type of runner as Eli Soehren, so Oxford Hills leaned more heavily on Morrison. After rushing for 30 yards on five carries in the season-opening win over Cony (compared to 11 carries for 129 yards for Soehren), Morrison gained 117 yards on 20 carries against the Golden Trojans.

Morrison was particularly pivotal in sealing the victory. After the Vikings took the lead in the fourth quarter, their defense forced a turnover on downs and regained possession near midfield with 3:34 remaining — in other words, plenty of time for Thornton’s offense to score, if it got another chance.

It did not get another chance. Morrison picked up one first down with a pair of tough runs — a 5-yarder and a 7-yarder — that included contact with defenders, and Morrison either bounced off them or lowered his shoulder and battled for extra yards.

“He’s elusive. Hard runner at all times, full speed. He doesn’t want to go down,” Jake Carson, another Vikings running back, said.


The Vikings needed one more first down before they could run out the rest of the clock. They lost 6 yards on their next two plays, setting up third-and-16 with 1:42 left. Truman again handed off to Morrison, who ran left and followed a gang of blockers then ran down the sideline for an 18-yard gain and a first down, allowing the Vikings to kneel out the rest of the clock.

“I had a few good runs, but I’ve got to thank my linemen,” Morrison said. “Really. Without them, I’m not a success.”

Eli Soehren missed the next two games. The passing game continued to thrive in wins over Sanford and Portland — which is playing for a Class B state title Saturday afternoon — but so did the running attack, which also began to incorporate Morrison’s backups, Hunter Tardiff, who led the team in rushing in Weeks 3 and 4, and Carson, who is second on the team this season with seven rushing touchdowns.

Oxford Hills’ Hunter Tardiff leaps over Windham’s defense in an attempt to gain additional yards during a regular season game last month in Paris. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“It also opened up opportunities for Jake and I to run a little bit more in the beginning of the season, and really help us get through those games while Eli was hurt,” Tardiff said. “And now that he has come back and do what he does, it’s good.”

“Jake and Hunter, they’re both great running backs,” Morrison added. “I feel that if I were to get injured … they could easily step into the role that I play and make a difference.”

Eli Soehren returned for the fifth game, but Morrison remained the focal point of the Oxford Hills rushing attack, leading the team in rushing the final five games of the regular season and in last week’s semifinal win over Bonny Eagle.


Morrison’s effectiveness has allowed the Vikings to limit Eli Soehren’s rushing attempts, which has been crucial as the quarterback has healed from his early-season injury and tried to avoid another.

“When Eli got hurt early … I’m glad that was part of our plan because Trey was required to have those carries,” Mark Soehren said. “And then even when they came back, we ran (Eli) against Bonny Eagle (in Week 6), but we really didn’t run him after that. You know, we didn’t run him much because we didn’t have to, we had Trey.”


Morrison (6.4), Soehren (6.61) and Tardiff (6.23) are all averaging more than 6 yards per carry. Carson is gaining 4.91 yards per carry. Morris leads the team with 136 carries, Soehren has 44 and Tardiff and Carson have 22 apiece.

The running backs say their focus isn’t on who gets the carries or who scores the TDs. It’s on doing their part to help Oxford Hills win each game and, they hope, the program’s first state title.

Part of the reason Eli Soehren was used so much as a runner last season was the blocking by Oxford Hills’ top running backs, Morrison and Wyatt Knightly, who graduated earlier this year.


Morrison had no problem with his block-first role in 2021.

“I definitely feel more included with the team (this season), but it’s like, I want to win,” Morrison said. “So if Eli’s getting it done on the rushing game, then let Eli rip, you know?”

Similarly, while Tardiff and Carson enjoy being more involved in the offense, they don’t covet Morrison’s carries.

Oxford Hills’ Jake Carson takes on Bonney Eagle’s Hayden Campbell during last week’s Class A semifinal football game Paris. Carson scored on the play. He ranks second on the team with seven rushing touchdowns. Brewster Burns photo

“Trey’s putting in a lot of work this year, looking amazing. I like getting my reps, but when Trey’s doing his job, I don’t need them,” Carson said.

“Let’s us play defense,” Tardiff added — he and Carson play big roles as linebackers on defense, while Morrison mostly is an offensive player.

The running backs recognize they are a complementary part of the offense.


The Vikings’ offense has racked up 4,039 yards this season — 2,533 through the air and 1,506 on the ground. Soehren and Truman have 32 combined touchdown passes, compared to the team’s 22 rushing TDs.

“We obviously are a passing team,” Carson said.

The running backs’ effectiveness is a bonus that makes an already dangerous offense even more potent — and it forces opposing defenses to spread their focus so it isn’t entirely on slowing down Soehren, Pelletier, Bickford, Merrill and Foster.

“The skill position guys, we’re pretty deep,” Mark Soehren said. “We’re … spoiled, because I can pick six guys — usually you’ve got a couple of kids that are really good and a couple of kids that are pretty good, and then a couple of kids that are, you know, that have a role. And the truth is, all six of my guys are really good.”

Not much will come easy against a program the caliber of Thornton, which has won five state titles since 2012, so being capable of scoring, and winning, in multiple ways might be the difference for a team trying to win its school’s first state title.

That is, after all, the goal.

“It felt good,” Tardiff said of the Vikings beating the Golden Trojans in Week 2, “but that’s not the end that we’re looking for. We got them early, but we want that gold ball.”

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