Lobster Bowl: East team loaded up with Oxford Hills stalwarts

·5 min read

Jul. 15—DOVER-FOXCROFT — A foursome of players from Oxford Hills will play together on the East team in Saturday's Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic, the most of any school in the state.

If you ask the Vikings players what earned them a trip to Dover-Foxcroft for Lobster Bowl practice —and to Lewiston High School for Saturday's game — they'd point to their community.

"They're a very supportive community," East captain Isaiah Oufiero said. "You will not see another community support their kids like Oxford Hills does. Everything we do is for them. If we win a game, all those 800-1,000 people, it's an escape from their everyday lives. They can come watch us and have some fun."

When the Vikings play, the stands are often packed. The players feel their presence and feed off of it.

"The Oxford Hills community loves football," Trevor Danforth said. "It's awesome. They all love football there, everyone loves football."

John Hatcher called the fan support "tremendous."

"I think if they didn't show up and support us like they did, I feel like none of us would have the heart to compete at the highest level that we could," Hatcher added. "We want to show out and make this community as proud as possible. We want to put on a show. (Assistant) coach Nate Danforth is a big advocate for that. He says before every game that the community is out there believing in us to do our best."

With the fans' support by their side, the Vikings have steadily been improving.

Oxford Hills was 4-5 in 2017, losing in the Class A North quarterfinals.

In 2018, the four seniors at this year's Lobster Bowl entered the school as freshmen and were on a team that finished the year with a 7-3 record, losing in the A North final.

After missing a year of tackle football because of the pandemic in 2020, the 2021 Vikings made it to the Class A state championship before falling to Thornton Academy 42-27, finishing the year with an 8-2 record.

"When we first came here, we weren't very good," Hatcher said. "But to get to the state game, showing our team has gotten really good over the last few years, was really cool."

The Vikings sending four seniors to the Lobster Bowl is indicative of the ascension of the program, according to Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren, an assistant on the East team.

"It's great and I think it's indicative of what they've done over the last few years and their hard work," Soehren said. "It's nice when we're selecting kids that they'd think of Oxford Hills kids, and I know our kids are greatly appreciative of it. We've had two or three over the past few years, but it's not a coincidence that you have a great year and you have a bigger number of players on the team. It's nice to be recognized that way. It's not something we ever talk about but I'm certain it's in the back of the kids' minds."

Leading the state in players named to the Lobster Bowl isn't lost on those Vikings preparing for the game. Windham also had four players named to the game, but Dylan Mathieson could not participate.

"Definitely we take pride in it," Oufiero said. "There's not many schools here that get more than one or two kids here, so for us to get four is a really great feeling. It shows how hard we worked this year and how much we accomplished."

"It's really an honor to be selected for this," Matt Doucette added. "To have four kids from the same school, you don't see that very often."

Of the four Vikings named to the team, two will be playing football at the college level.

Oufiero is headed to Castleton University, while Hatcher is headed to Norwich University.

Hatcher missed media day on Tuesday at Foxcroft Academy to get an MRI on his leg after injuring it during practice, but the injury was deemed mild and he'll be able to play on Saturday at Lewiston High School at 4 p.m.

Hatcher has been watching Oufiero, named one of the captains of the East team, be the same leader to players he's not familiar with as he was with the Vikings.

"He's a great teammate," Hatcher said. "Just to see him out there, pushing everybody, making them do their best, I've been used to it, but to see him doing it with kids he doesn't know is really cool."

Soehren said that his Vikings are learning the new scheme and plays well and are having a great time preparing for Saturday's game.

"We've had a lot of practices, but it's been great," Soehren said. "It's a huge learning curve for everyone and it's like learning a new language. We don't call the same plays, the same techniques are different names. But it's been great. The kids are having a ton of fun and the coaches are, too. They're focused, intense. It's been great and the Oxford Hills kids fit right in. The first day I made fun of them a bit because they were all sitting together but now they're friends with others and it's been great."