Lisbon High School players work on a running play duroing a preseason practice.
LISBON — As they enter the 2017 season, the Lisbon Greyhounds have every reason to turn the page from their still unfathomable 2016 postseason.
In the course of seven days in November, the Greyhounds went from a miracle win in the regional championship game to a shocking loss on the final play of the Class D state championship. Simultaneously, they bid a fond farewell to legendary head coach Dick Mynahan and a talented and driven senior class. Weeks later, they welcomed Chris Kates, a Lisbon alum and their offensive coordinator for the last four years, as their new head coach.
That’s a lot for young athletes to process, but Kates isn’t concerned about any remnants of an emotional hangover from last year holding the Greyhounds back.
“I think, if anything, it’s motivation for the next season,” Kates said. “Now we’re just looking for that leadership that wants to take us to that next level. We had a lot of strong leaders on last year’s team. We’re just trying to fill those voids now.”
The Greyhounds have varsity experience returning all over the field, but the core that graduated left the field with three and four years of varsity experience.
“There are definitely some big shoes to fill,” senior slot/safety Brad Harriman said. “There are quite a few of us stepping up into it. We kind of have to. We don’t have much of a choice.”
The most apparent void is at quarterback, where Kates will have to replace the dynamic Tyler Halls. The Greyhounds tipped their hand several times last year when Halls shifted to wide receiver and running back Lucas Francis to quarterback for occasional snaps.
Francis, now a junior, will run the offense full-time this year. Like Halls, he will be the focal point of opposing defenses. They will just have to go about containing him using different methods.
“He’s a different player than Tyler, obviously,” Kates said. “He doesn’t quite have the speed, but at the same time, he’s a bigger body on the inside. We can still run the ball effectively. It will just be a different type of run than what Tyler was bringing us last year.”
Francis will be the center-piece of a power running game with junior Isaiah Thompson and sophomore Cam Bourget among those expected to fill his previous role in the backfield.
The offensive line, anchored by senior center Cole Bolduc, will have to replace two starters.
“We’re a different make-up on the line but I think we should be just as solid there as we were last year,” Kates said.
Not surprisingly, Kates isn’t expecting many changes to the offensive scheme, but the Greyounds could show some new looks on defense.
“It’s predicated on us playing fast,” Kates said. “They’re flying around (in preseason). They’re hitting and it looks like they’re having some fun out there.”
With Class D South adding five teams who played in Class C last year, Lisbon knows the road to redemption is filled with more landmines than last year. But it is ready for the challenge.
“We know we can do it. We know we have the team to do it,” Harriman said. “We may not have the same guys but I think we have the same character, at least, that can bring us there.”