Brady Truman was a surprise contributor during Oxford Hills’ regular-season win over Thornton Academy last year. The then-junior backup quarterback entered the game in relief of injured starter Eli Soehren and helped lead the Vikings to a big early-season road victory.

Oxford Hills went on to beat Thornton Academy in the state championship game last fall.

When the two teams match up Friday night in South Paris, Truman won’t be a surprise anymore, and the two contenders will be plenty familiar with each other after facing off four times over the previous two seasons.

Xander Cantara of Thornton Academy catches a 41-yard touchdown pass from Ryan O’Keefe in the fourth quarter after getting past Nick Binette of Oxford Hills during a game in Saco on Sept. 10, 2022. Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald

“Our kids know how hard they have to play if they want to compete to win against TA,” Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said. “Last year’s regular season game was in the heat and in the sun, and we have kids on the team this year that had to step in and compete to win that game.”

The Vikings (1-0) enter the early-season showdown on the heels of a 43-0 win over Lewiston in their season opener. The Golden Trojans (0-1), meanwhile, dropped a home contest to Portland, 35-28.

Thornton Academy knows it will have to fix the mistakes it made against Portland if it wants to avoid starting 0-2.


“They know they’re gonna have to play at a real high level to beat them,” Thornton coach Kevin Kezal said.

Soehren said the Vikings players “really grew up as varsity athletes” in the opener against Lewiston. Youthful mistakes in the first made way for experienced plays in the second half, when Oxford Hills scored 29 of its 43 points.

Truman tossed four touchdown passes — two in each half — with Brayden Murch on the receiving end of two of them. Nick Binette — who Kezal noted had two big catches against Thornton in last year’s state final — and Brady Delamater also caught touchdown passes, and Hunter Tardiff ran in a score in the second half. Backup quarterback Carter Wyman even got in on the action, throwing a touchdown pass of his own to Delamater in the fourth quarter.

“They spread the ball around, they got good athletes, they’re good up front,” Kezal said of the Oxford Hills offense. “They certainly present a lot of problems.”

Kezal said the Golden Trojans will need to do a better job of limiting big plays than they did against Portland, which had six of what Kezal called explosive plays that accounted for over half the Bulldogs’ offense.

“You know, they were 3 for 9 passing with two interceptions, you’re saying, ‘Jeez, played great pass defense,’ but the three completions were all on third-and-longs where we gave up first downs or a touchdown,” Kezal said. “So, you know, it’s just that situational football. We got to play just smarter in those situations.”


Soehren said the Vikings offense just needs to eliminate the unforced mistakes, like penalties, and limit turnovers. And there were some missed assignments against Lewiston that need to get cleaned up.

On defense, he’s looking for the Vikings to limit big plays.

“Make them play mistake-free football, which is hard to do for high school teams,” he added.

Kezal lamented the Trojans’ inability to finish against Portland, including when they had the chance to take the lead against Portland when the score was tied 28-28.

Thornton was breaking in a new quarterback, in junior Wyatt Benoit. He does have two experienced receivers at his disposal, in Xander Cantara and Brady Kezal. The Golden Trojans also have a stable of running backs they can turn to.

On defense, Harry Bunce is a three-year starter and all-conference selection at inside linebacker.

He and the rest of the defense will have its hands full Friday night against a potent Oxford Hills offense.

But the Golden Trojans also have championship pedigree, having played in more Class A state championships over the past decade than any other team, Soehren noted.

“They know the effort it takes to win big games and we need to be prepared for that,” he said. “We have had some great games in the last couple of years and we look forward to those types of competitions.”

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