Cheverus has no answers for prolific Oxford Hills

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Oxford Hills senior quarterback Colton Carson looks to throw during the Vikings’ 42-14 win at Cheverus Saturday. Carson threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 121 yards and two more scores in the Vikings’ impressive performance.

Mike Strout photos.

More photos below.

BOX SCORE

Oxford Hills 42 Cheverus 14

OH- 14 7 21 0- 42
C-  7 0 7 0- 14

First quarter
OH- LaFrance 36 run (Luksza kick)
C- Marrone 70 pass from Reali (Harris kick)
OH- Carson 13 run (Luksza kick)

Second quarter
OH- LaFrance 31 pass from Carson (Luksza kick)

Third quarter
OH- LaFrance 22 run (Luksza kick)
C- Trafford 1 run (Harris kick)
OH- Turner 80 pass from Carson (Luksza kick)
OH- Carson 10 run (Luksza kick)

Fourth quarter
No scoring

PORTLAND—Colton Carson is planning to play baseball at the University of Maine.

As far as the Cheverus Stags are concerned, Carson has what it takes to star in football at the next level as well.

Saturday afternoon at Boulos Stadium, the Stags hosted Oxford Hills in a pivotal midseason Class A North showdown and learned first-hand just how dangerous and explosive the Vikings can be when they and their quarterback are clicking on all cylinders.

Oxford Hills struck first and went ahead, 7-0, when senior Parker LaFrance scored on a 36-yard touchdown run in the first period.

After Cheverus answered on a 70-yard scoring strike from junior quarterback Marc Reali to senior Vick Marrone, the Vikings drove and took the lead for good, 14-7, when Carson got the job done with his legs, scoring on a 10-run scamper.

In the second period, Oxford Hills scored again, this time through the air, as Carson hit LaFrance for a 31-yard touchdown, and at halftime, the Vikings were on top, 21-7.

After the Stags drove deep into Oxford Hills territory to start the second half, only to have Reali throw an interception in the end zone, the Vikings struck again, as LaFrance scored on a 22-yard run for a 28-7 advantage.

Cheverus answered behind a 1-yard touchdown run from junior Ian Trafford, but on the next play, Oxford Hills broke the Stags’ back, as Carson dropped back and dropped a perfect pass into the hands of senior Alex Turner, who completed an 80-yard score to break it open.

Carson scored on a 10-yard run late in the third period and the Vikings’ defense never let the Stags respond as Oxford Hills went on to a 42-14 victory.

Carson combined for over 300 yards with his arm and legs and accounted for four touchdowns, two apiece on the ground and through the air, as the Vikings improved to 4-1, dropping Cheverus to 3-2 in the process.

“They’re a big-play team with a big horse who is pretty good,” said Stags coach Mike Vance. “We played gritty, but we didn’t play the clean game we needed to play against a team that’s that good. We just didn’t have that today.”

Statement

Oxford Hills came into the 2018 season viewed as a favorite in the region and in the first half of the year, the Vikings more or less lived up to billing, beating host Lewiston (34-0) and visiting Edward Little (41-13) and after being knocked off at Sanford (20-6), Oxford Hills bounced back last week with a 45-0 home blanking of Bangor.

Cheverus downed visiting Massabesic in the opener, 43-6, and after a 37-7 loss at Portland, the Stags held on to edge visiting Lewiston, 19-13, then last week, won at Deering, 31-18.

Last year, the Vikings beat the Stags, 13-7, in Oxford.

Saturday, on a very nice late-September, early-autumn afternoon (65-degrees and breezy), Cheverus hoped to beat Oxford Hills in Portland for the first time since 2015, but the Vikings made it two straight in the series, gradually pulling away to victory.

The Stags won the opening coin toss, but deferred possession to the second half.

Oxford Hills started the game auspiciously, as LaFrance ran for six yards, then Carson kept the ball for three and senior Emerson Brown picked up three more for a first down at the 35. After senior Janek Luksza gained four yards and Carson ran for one, Carson appeared to break a 20-yard rush, but an illegal block penalty brought it back and Carson was sacked by sophomore Gavin Callahan, forcing a punt.

Cheverus started in good field position, at its 43, and after junior Sean Tompkins was held to no gain, Tompkins ran for 11 yards and a first down at the Vikings’ 46. After Tompkins was again held to no gain, senior Teigan Lindstedt rumbled for 18 yards, breaking tackles along the way, for a first down at the 28. Lindstedt got the ball again for five yards, then for two and when Trafford picked up five yards on third-and-3, the Stags had the ball at the 16. Trafford gained a yard, then Reali twice threw incomplete and after an illegal procedure penalty, Reali threw incomplete again and Oxford Hills got the ball back on downs at its 20.

The Stags’ defense remained stout, as after LaFrance ran for eight yards, Marrone threw Carson for a four-yard loss and Lindstedt broke up a Carson pass, forcing another punt.

With 2:48 to go in the opening stanza, Cheverus started at its 32, but quickly went three-and-out, as Lindstedt ran for two yards and Reali twice threw incomplete.

After a nice 23-yard punt return by Luksza, Oxford Hills started at the Stags’ 41 with 1:47 remaining in the first quarter and one play later, the visitors were on the board.

After an off-sides penalty on the Stags, LaFrance got the handoff, broke through a big hole at the line of scrimmage, cut left, then outran the defense to the end zone for a 36-yard score with 1:39 on the clock. Luksza added the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

Cheverus answered immediately.

With the ball at the 30, Reali dropped back, rolled right, then threw a pass over the middle to Marrone, who was covered, but managed to reach back to make a nice catch before outrunning the defense the rest of the way for a 70-yard score with 1:21 remaining in the first period.

Senior Cam Harris’ extra point skimmed off the crossbar, but got over to tie the game, 7-7.

Oxford Hills quickly answered to go on top to stay.

Starting at their 33, the Vikings needed just three plays and 47 seconds to march to paydirt.

Carson hit Turner for 12 yards and a personal foul tacked on 15 more yards to the Stags’ 45. Carson then kept the ball for 32 yards to the 13 and on the next snap, Carson bulled up the middle, weaving through the defense for a 13-yard score with 28.5 seconds on the clock and Luksza’s PAT made it 14-7 Oxford Hills.

After Tompkins was held to no gain on the final play of the first quarter (the Stags held a slight 109-104 edge in yardage in the first 12 minutes), Reali threw incomplete on the first play of the second period and on third-and-10, a Reali pass to Marrone was good for just three yards and Cheverus had to punt.

The Vikings started at their 36 and began driving again, as LaFrance broke free for 34 yards to the Stags’ 30. After Carson ran for three yards, he was held to no gain by Callahan. Carson then kept the ball for two yards, but on fourth-and-5, Carson threw incomplete, as LaFrance, wide open behind the defense, couldn’t haul in a sure touchdown.

With that reprieve, the Stags started at their 25 and looked to drive for the tying score before committing a turnover.

Lindstedt moved the chains with a 12-yard run. Three more Lindstedt runs, of three-yards, six-yards and one yard, set up first down at the 47. Lindstedt then ran for five yards and Trafford picked up a first down at the Oxford Hills 40. After Trafford gained two more, Reali tried to throw over the middle, but Carson jumped the route, intercepted the ball and returned it to the Vikings’ 42.

Oxford Hills would take advantage, marching 58 yards in five plays and 1:37 to extend the lead.

Carson and LaFrance got things going by each rumbling for 14 yards, moving the ball to the Cheverus 32. After a one-yard pass from Carson to junior JJ Worster, Carson threw incomplete, but on third-and-9, Carson again spotted LaFrance open behind the defense and this time, LaFrance hauled it in for a 31-yard score with 3:33 on the first half clock. Luksza’s extra point made it 21-7 Vikings.

The Stags then went three-and-out, as after a fumbled snap, Lindstedt was dropped for a one-yard loss by senior Austin Doughty, and Reali threw incomplete.

With 2:28 remaining in the half, Oxford Hills started at the Cheverus 42 and had a great opportunity to deliver a knockout blow before the break, but gave it away instead.

After LaFrance was held to no gain by sophomore Gio Fornaro, Carson scrambled for 32 yards, setting up first-and-goal from the 10. Carson kept the ball again and found daylight and appeared end zone bound, but he lost the ball at the 5 and junior Sean Sullivan recovered for the hosts.

With 1:27 remaining before halftime, the Stags started at their 5 and disaster nearly struck on the first play, as a bad snap put the ball on the ground, but Cheverus recovered. Reali and Tompkins then fumbled the exchange, but the Stags recovered again. Trafford then ran out the first half clock with a 16-yard run, sending the game to the break, 21-7 Oxford Hills.

In the first 24 minutes, the Vikings had a 238-162 edge in yardage, as Carson passed for 44 yards and a touchdown and ran for 101 more yards and another score. LaFrance gained 98 yards and had a touchdown on the ground and caught a 31-yard TD pass as well.

Cheverus, thanks in part to 53 rushing yards from Lindstedt, and the long touchdown pass from Reali to Marrone, was still within hailing distance and began the second half with a promising drive that again would end in disappointment.

After the third quarter kickoff went out of bounds, the Stags began at their 35. Tompkins ran for two yards on first down and caught a five-yard pass on second down. On third-and-3, Trafford ran for two yards and Vance opted to go for it on fourth down as Trafford got the one yard he needed to move the chains. Reali then threaded the needle with a beautiful pas to Tompkins for 46 yards to the Oxford Hills 9, but Cheverus wouldn’t get in the end zone.

On first down, Lindstedt was dropped for a two-yard loss by senior Travis May. A holding penalty then backed the Stags to the 22 before senior Akera Oryem caught an eight-yard pass, Tompkins ran for three yards and on fourth-and-goal from the 11, Reali was intercepted in the end zone by Turner.

The Vikings started at their 20 after the touchback and needed just four plays to march up the field to extend the lead.

A five-yard run by LaFrance got things started. After Carson was held to no gain, Carson squeezed a pass just past the outstretched hand of Oryem to Turner, who turned it into a 38-yard reception down the right sideline. A controversial personal foul facemask penalty was tacked on and just like that, Oxford Hills had the ball at the Stags’ 22. LaFrance did the rest, taking the ball and racing up the gut untouched for a 22-yard score with 4:56 to play in the third period. Luksza added the PAT to make it 28-7.

Cheverus would respond, driving 67 yards in eight plays and 3:28.

After Lindstedt ran for three yards and Reali threw incomplete, Reali hit Oryem for 10 yards and a first down at the 46. Trafford ran for six yards and Lindstedt gained four to move the chains again. Reali and Oryem then hooked up again, this time for 31 yards, and a first down at the Vikings’ 13. Lindstedt ran for 10 more yards and a personal foul penalty was tacked on, setting up first-and-goal at the 1 and on the next snap, Trafford ran in for the 1-yard score with 1:23 remaining in the quarter. Harris kicked the extra point to pull the Stags within two touchdowns, 28-14.

But just when it appeared Cheverus might have momentum heading for the fourth quarter, Carson wrested it away once and for all.

Oxford Hills started its next drive at its 20 after a touchback and on first down, Carson dropped back and threw a bomb down the right sideline to a streaking Turner, who caught the gem of a pass in his outstretched arms before easily outracing the pursuit to the end zone to complete a highlight reel 80-yard score.

“They pressed a little bit, so we tried some double moves to exploit space,” Carson said. “The drive before, we wanted to exploit that and we threw a hitch and he was close to getting to it. I told Coach, ‘hitch and go’ and it worked out well.”

Luksza added the extra point for a 35-14 lead.

Before the quarter was over, the Vikings were in the end zone again.

Cheverus started its next drive at its 35, but on the first play, another bad exchange led to a fumble that this time Oxford Hills recovered, as LaFrance pounced on the ball at the Stags’ 36.

Three plays later, the Vikings scored their final touchdown.

After Carson hit senior Jonny Pruett for 23 yards and a first down at the 13, LaFrance ran for three yards and Carson punctuated the drive with a 10-yard run and Luksza’s PAT made it 42-14 with 16.1 seconds to go in the third.

After a four-yard Trafford run sent the game to the fourth period, Lindstedt picked up four yards and a helmet-to-helmet personal foul on Oxford Hills gave Cheverus the ball at the Vikings’ 40. Runs of two-yards by Trafford, six-yards by Lindstedt and three-yards by Lindstedt set up first down at the 29, but Tompkins fumbled and junior Garrett Pendexter recovered for Oxford Hills at the Vikings’ 32.

Oxford Hills then chewed up four minutes of clock.

After an incomplete pass, Carson ran for 10 yards and a first down, junior Colby Van Decker picked up one yard and LaFrance followed with a 12-yard scamper and a first down at the Cheverus 45. After Marrone tackled Van Decker for a one-yard loss, Callahan, Fornaro and Marrone teamed up to sack Carson for a 12-yard loss. After a two-yard Van Decker run, the Vikings had to punt.

The Stags got the ball for the last time at their 20 with 5:41 remaining and used up the remainder of the clock.

A 10-yard run by Lindstedt produced a first down. After Trafford was held to no gain, Trafford ran for nine yards and Lindstedt’s 11-yard burst set up first down at midfield. Trafford then ran for four yards and Lindstedt picked up 20 to the Oxford Hills 26. After runs of five-yards apiece by Lindstedt and Trafford, Cheverus recovered a fumbled snap and Trafford ran for four yards and the clock expired, giving the Vikings a 42-14 victory.

“We bought it into the fact we’re a good team and we know if we execute, we’ll put points on the board,” Carson said.

Carson had a day to remember, completing 6-of-10 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 14 times for 121 yards and two more TDs.

“We have a line that’s a huge part of our success,” Carson said. “When the line’s working, everything’s working.”

LaFrance had a big day as well, gaining 140 yards and scoring twice on 10 carries, as well as catching a 31-yard TD pass.

Turner had three receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown.

Oxford Hills, which had 446 yards, was penalized four times for 39 yards and turned the ball over once.

Too many mistakes

The Stags saw Reali go 7-of-20, good for 173 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown. 

“They’re a bigger team and even a ground-control team like us, we had to throw it around a little bit and I thought Marc did a good job,” Vance said.

Marrone caught two passes for 73 yards and a score.

Lindstedt ran for 125 yards on 22 carries, Trafford had 70 rushing yards and a TD on 16 attempts and Tompkins rushed eight times for 14 yards and had two receptions for 51. 

Oryem caught three balls for 21 yards.

Cheverus finished with 380 yards, but was hindered by four turnovers and four penalties for 41 yards.

“We gave it away here and there,” Vance said. “That’s part of the process. We’re pleased with the effort of the kids, but we just have to clean up mistakes.”

Ramping up

There’s a possibility the teams will play again in the postseason, but each squad has work to do first.

Oxford Hills (now first in the Class A North Heal Points standings) hosts Bonny Eagle in a critical showdown Friday, then welcomes Portland the following week in a contest which could determine homefield advantage for the region. The Vikings close at Windham.

“This gives us the confidence we need moving forward,” Carson said. “We’re ready to take on anyone. We have to play our game and execute and we’ll be good. There’s always stuff we can clean up, but overall, we’ll playing well.” 

Cheverus (third in Class A North) is at Edward Little Friday, hosts Windham, then finishes at Bangor.

“We have to come back to practice and be focused and work on executing,” Vance said. “No secret to it. We just have to get better in every aspect. We’ll be ready Friday night.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

Cheverus junior Sean Tompkins tackles Oxford Hills junior JJ Worster.

Cheverus senior Akera Oryem can’t haul in a pass as Oxford Hills senior Alex Turner defends.

Cheverus juniors Marc Reali and Sean Tompkins can’t complete a handoff.

Cheverus junior Ian Trafford is met by Oxford Hills senior Janek Luksza.

Cheverus junior quarterback Marc Reali throws a pass.

Cheverus senior Teigan Lindstedt prepares to meet Oxford Hills seniors Janek Luksza (24) and Alex Turner.

Oxford Hills senior Parker LaFrance can’t hold on to a sure touchdown pass as Cheverus junior Tim O’Brien looks on.

Cheverus senior Vick Marrone tries in vain to bring down Oxford Hill senior Colton Carson.

Cheverus junior Sean Tompkins tries to elude the tackle of Oxford Hills senior Michael Bonang.

Cheverus senior Vick Marrone (12) is congratulated by classmate Akera Oryem after a first quarter touchdown.

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Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.