D South quarterfinal: Ramblers wear down Greyhounds to get their revenge

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Winthrop/Monmouth’s Cameron Gaghan dives into the end zone in the final minutes of the Class D South quarterfinal game against Lisbon on Saturday afternoon. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Lisbon’s Daytona McIver is run out of bounds by Winthrop/Monmouth’s Gavin Perkins during Saturday’s Class D South quarterfinal game at Lisbon High School. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

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Winthrop/Monmouth’s Cameron J. Gaghan runs with the ball during Saturday’s Class D South quarterfinal game at Lisbon High School. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Winthrop/Monmouth’s Cameron J. Gaghan sprints with the ball during Saturday’s Class D South quarterfinal game at Lisbon High School. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Winthrop/Monmouth’s Cameron J. Gaghan dives for the end zone in the final minutes of Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup at Lisbon High School. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

LISBON FALLS — Winthrop/Monmouth has been chasing Lisbon ever since a nightmarish last-minute loss to the Greyhounds in last year’s regional championship game, 

In Saturday’s Class D South quarterfinal rematch, the Ramblers made the Greyhounds chase them, and erased some demons because of it.

No. 6 Winthrop/Monmouth’s game plan wore down No. 3 Lisbon and the Ramblers dominated the second half, scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull off the upset, 28-13, at Thompson Field.

“It feels great. We needed this,” said senior running back/defensive back Cameron Gaghan. “It’s a little redemption from last year. We didn’t want them to end our season this time.” 

Winthrop/Monmouth (5-4) will face No. 2 Madison in the semifinals next weekend. Lisbon’s season ends at 7-2.

“Our seniors wanted one more crack at (Lisbon) after last year,” Winthrop/Monmouth coach Dave St. Hilaire. “We played them in preseason, but it’s preseason. It was great for those guys. They really needed a signature win. That group of seniors really haven’t had that all the way up through, so this was a nice one.”

“We’ve been a second-half team most of the year, but I think they put a good game plan together and their kids knew what they needed to do to win the game,” Lisbon coach Chris Kates said. 

From the start, the Ramblers regularly lined up with an empty backfield trying to entice the Greyhounds to rush sophomore quarterback Keegan Choate. The Greyhounds complied and put Choate under the gun throughout the first half with a pair of sacks, multiple hurried, deflected or off-balance throws, and interceptions by Robbie Dick and Lucas Francis.

“Our plan was to go with the empty formation and make them pass rush, and then helpfully get back to running the ball,” St. Hilaire said. “I didn’t think we’d run the ball like we did in the second half, but those guys were gassed.”

Lisbon took a 7-0 run on Francis’ 40 yard touchdown run and extra point with 8:02 left in the first half.

Unable to run the ball or protect Choate adequately, the Ramblers’ net yardage for the game didn’t cross into the plus column until their next play from scrimmage. They kept the momentum going to the Lisbon 32, but Francis made a juggling interception from his knees to end the drive.

Morgan Bellemare’s fumble recovery gave the Ramblers a new start at Lisbon’s 21. A nice catch by Gaghan set them up 1st-and-goal, and on second down, Choate threw a dart to Greg Fay just inside the front pylon and the end zone sideline for a six-yard touchdown.

“I was mad at myself because I kept lofting (passes) up,” Choate said. “I just threaded it.”

The PAT went wide left, and the Greyhounds maintained the 7-6 lead at halftime.

Lisbon kept up the pressure to start the second half, as back-to-back sacks by Bradley Harriman and Dakota McIver stymied a promising Rambler drive at Lisbon’s 21.

But the the running lanes that weren’t there for  Gaghan (18 carries, 54 yards) and Abram Sirois (13 carries, 48 yards) in the first half started opening up. Choate’s throwing lanes were more consistent, too, and he found Ryan Baird on a 29-yard completion.

That set up a seven-yard TD pass to Baird in the middle of the end zone. Choate connected with Fay for the two-point conversion to give the Ramblers a 14-7 lead with 11:50 remaining.

The Greyhounds went to the air on their next series, and Francis’ completions to Dick and Harriman got them to the Rambler 4. Francis (14 carries, 53 yards) scored the touchdown from there, then reached across the goal-line as he was being tackled on the two-point conversion. Officials ruled his knee was down before the ball crossed, keeping Winthrop/Monmouth in front with 9:59 left.

The Ramblers answered with a clock-killing 16-play, 69-yard drive. Lisbon helped extend it by jumping offsides on 4th-and-2. Three plays later Gaghan bounced outside and dove for the goal line from nine yards out and Baird added the PAT to make it 21-13 with 2:22 left.

“I knew we needed that one, so I just put my head down and went for it,” Gaghan said.

Zac Wallace then turned the tables on the Greyhounds with a pass rush on Francis that led to an interception and return by Fay to the Greyhound 12. That set up the clinching score, a six-yard run by Siriois.

Winthrop/Monmouth limited Lisbon to just 79 yards rushing, most of which came in the first half.

“It’s great to have a win like this,” Choate said. “It would have been really bad if we lost this game. Everybody put in a lot of work in in the off-season.”

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