Sep. 24—Isaiah Oufiero hates game days.
Well, until kickoff.
Then, it’s all gravy as the running back and linebacker readies up punishing hits and finds holes for touchdowns for the undefeated Oxford Hills football team.
“Game days are my least favorite day of the week,” Oufiero, a senior, said. “Up until game time. You have to wake up, sit through school, go to math, and all I’m doing is sitting there, twitching. I’m just itching to play and all I’m thinking about is whacking someone later that night. You’ve got to get on a bus and get strapped up at 5 (p.m.) and wait an hour and a half for warmups, but then it’s game time. I like hitting other guys rather than my buddies.”
Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said Oufiero is a pure hitter on defense. On offense, Soehren said the running back is faster than people think, and that helps him exploit matchups.
Soehren, though, said the best thing about Oufiero is pure love of the game. Soehren adds that Oufiero is the team’s leader.
“It doesn’t matter what’s going on around Isaiah, he is a very coachable kid, he’s got great football instincts and just purely loves to play the game,” Soehren said. “He loves the hitting part of it, the strategy part of it. It’s sometimes a struggle for good players to make it in college, and mostly because it feels different from high school. Out here, you’re with the guys all the time and practicing, and Isaiah loves all that. But, basically, you get to college and it doesn’t feel that way, and you’ve got to really love the game of football to be successful. And that’s how I think of Isaiah. Isaiah loves the aspects of football as much as anything, and he’s a great teammate.”
Oufiero’s love of the game came at an early age. He’s grown up with the Soehrens, playing with former Oxford Hills quarterback Atticus and current Vikings QB Eli since he was 5, but it was in second grade that Oufiero really latched onto football. He said the game even helped his mental health.
“When I was in about second grade, the first time I ever put pads on,” Oufiero said of when his love of football started. “When I was younger, I used to get angry a lot, and I guess I used football as a way to get it all out. I think it was the first practice I had and we did the Oklahoma Drill, and I was like, ‘This is the coolest thing ever, I want to do this forever.'”
In the Oklahoma Drill, two linemen line up across from each other and block each other until one is brought to the ground. It can also involve a ball carrier, and the defensive player has to shed the block and then tackle the ball carrier.
Oufiero loves to block and tackle, and if he does get tired, Soehren said he never shows it.
“He’s relentless,” Soehren said. “He might get tired but never plays tired, and he loves blocking as much as he loves catching the ball. He likes blocking as much as tackling, and there’s always something that he’s trying to get better at, like a pancake block, or making a big hit, or catching a big ball. It just doesn’t matter, he does it all.”
On offense, Oufiero is a weapon running the ball or catching a pass from Eli Soehren, with whom he has a strong relationship, since not only did the two grow up together but both of their dads are on the coaching staff.
Against Skowhegan, Oufiero caught a 70-yard pass and then scored a touchdown two plays later on the ground. Eli Soehren said he is confidence that the running back can always score when the Vikings are near the goal line.
“I will give it to him, and I know he will score from 10 yards out,” Eli Soehren said. “He’s a dog, he can not get tackled. He will do whatever you want him to do, he will listen, catch a ball, he’ll hit someone so hard they won’t want to come back in, and he’s just an absolute beast on both sides. He loves winning.”
Oufiero is just as confident in his ability to catch Soehren’s passes.
“That’s my brother, since we were 5 or 6 years old, we were playing in the backyard,” Oufiero said about Eli. “Just at practices, we played together, watched practice and we’ve been doing it for years. As a sophomore I caught a lot of passes and I am fairly confident in my abilities to catch the football. With Eli out there, I kind of just run under it and keep going.”
Mark Soehren said the Vikings will have a couple of offensive linemen back this week for their showdown with Bonny Eagle. The added depth will help a line that Eli Soehren said “makes big holes for everyone.”
Oufiero will make use of those holes. If there isn’t a hole, he’ll do his best to create his own. On defense, he’ll go all out trying to plug holes.
No matter what happens, he’ll keep going, and going, and going as long as he can.
“I think I just missed last year,” Oufiero said. “It taught me that you can’t ever take a play off because you never know when COVID or injuries can happen. And then, team-wise, I think we’ve just got a bond. We lifted together all summer, all winter, we hang out together, we all just get along great since we were little.”