SACO — Oxford Hills lost its star quarterback to an ankle injury, then let a lead slip away on a warm Saturday afternoon against reigning Class A champion Thornton Academy.

All that did, though, was give the Vikings a chance to show their resiliency. Backup quarterback Brady Truman’s second long touchdown pass – a 94-yarder to Tanner Bickford with about four minutes remaining, lifted Oxford Hills to a 25-20 win in a clash between teams that were tied for first place in the first two Varsity Maine polls of the season.

“One of our coaches said this is the grittiest win we’ve seen,” said Oxford Hills Coach Mark Soehren. “There was just no give up. It was hot and they were tired and they believed in themselves and never quit.”

Truman, a 5-foot-10 junior, played most of the game at quarterback and safety after Eli Soehren, the 2021 Gatorade Maine Player of the Year, rolled an ankle with about four minutes left in the first quarter. Soehren had similarly injured the ankle during the preseason.

Truman completed 9 of 15 passes for 254 yards. His 66-yard pass to Teigan Pelletier on the first play of the third quarter put the Vikings (2-0) ahead 19-7.

“My teammates are the best teammates in the state, the best guys I could have. It helped the nerves a little bit knowing I had those guys around me,” Truman said.


The game was a rematch of last year’s Class A championship game, won by Thornton Academy, and a possible preview of this year’s title tilt.

“I don’t think it proves that we are anywhere because it is the second game of the season, but it proves that we definitely wanted it more than them,” said Zach Louvat, who along with Dallys Eastman led an Oxford Hills defense that limited Thornton to 254 yards – 101 on the ground.

Thornton (1-1) took its only lead, 20-19, early in the fourth quarter on a 41-yard pass from Ryan O’Keefe to Xander Cantara. The Trojans’ next two possessions started in Oxford Hills territory but came up empty. They were on the verge of adding to their lead when Hayden Whitney broke free on fourth-and-one and rumbled inside the 10, but he fumbled the ball and Hunter Tardiff of Oxford Hills recovered it at the 6.

On the next play, Truman lofted a throw over a leaping Thornton lineman and past a defensive back looking to make an interception. Bickford hauled it in, raced down the sideline and shook off two late tackle attempts to put the Vikings back in front with 4:13 remaining.

Thornton’s final possession started at its 37. Oxford Hills came up with a fourth-down stop and ran out the clock after Trey Morrison rumbled for 18 yards on a third-and-16. Morrison finished with 119 bruising yards on 20 carries.

“We got that lead and we had the ball at midfield three drives in a row and we didn’t do anything with it. You’ve got to finish the game and we had opportunities to do that and we just didn’t do it,” said Thornton Coach Kevin Kezal. “Give them credit for making the plays. They played a great game, overcame a lot of adversity.”

Oxford Hills jumped on top 7-0 on its first possession when Soehren connected with Pelletier for a 36-yard touchdown. Pelletier, a 6-foot-6 target with speed and leaping ability, finished with seven catches for 189 yards.

After replacing Soehren, Truman directed a 15-play, 89-yard drive that was capped by a 15-yard run by Morrison. Truman made it known he would be a throwing threat when he hit Pelletier on a deep ball over the middle to convert a third-and-27.

Thornton got on the board when Caden True returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a score. Thornton’s second touchdown came in the third quarter on a nice 11-yard throw and catch from O’Keefe (15 of 26, 156 yards) to Carlos Eboli (eight catches, 92 yards).

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