Sun Journal Football Player of the Year: Francis thrived as Lisbon's go-to guy

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Lucas Francis of Lisbon High School. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Lisbon coach Chris Kates understands how someone could look at junior quarterback Lucas Francis’ 6-foot, 220-pound frame and see a fullback or lineman first.

“He’s not your typical quarterback,” said Kates, who played the position for Lisbon a decade ago.

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The decision to move Francis from running back to quarterback wasn’t a no-brainer for Lisbon’s first-year coach, even though he had taken a few snaps at QB as a sophomore when the Greyhounds wanted to get starting QB Tyler Halls in space by lining him up wide.

But with Halls graduating and Francis one of the few returning to the backfield with varsity experience, Kates made the call late last summer to have the offense start with the ball in the hands of his best player.

Francis believed he would ultimately get the news that he was the quarterback after competing for the position through summer seven-on-seven sessions. He was even more certain he would have to shoulder much of the offensive burden regardless of where he lined up. 

“I expected to be a big workhorse for us,” Francis said. “I knew it was going to be a lot of work. We had a new coaching staff, a new offense and a lot of young guys who had never played varsity before.”

His eagerness to take on those responsibilities quickly reassured Kates that he had made the right choice.

“He grew a lot as a leader,” Kates said. “We only had a few seniors coming back, so there really weren’t a lot of guys that could naturally step into that role. He’s not a rah-rah guy. But he came a long way maturity-wise and filled a major void.”

Francis’ leadership example shined through quickly. In the season-opener against Bucksport, he battled through cramps on a hot Saturday afternoon to rush for 110 yards and four touchdowns and throw for another score in a 36-13 victory.

A 210-yard, three-touchdown performance in a bruising 22-20 win over Mountain Valley showcased Francis’ combination of power and deceptive breakaway speed, highlighted by a momentum-changing 77-yard touchdown run.

Francis continued to be the workhorse and made significant contributions playing at every level of the defense as the Greyhounds piled up victories over Sacopee Valley, Dirigo and Spruce Mountain. He never worried about the volume of responsibilities catching up with him.

“I got a lot of help from our line,” he said. “I just tried to carry the work load as much as a I could. The last thing I was thinking about was injuries or wearing down.”

If anything, Francis wanted to make sure if anyone was going to deliver the punishment when he had the ball, it would be him.

“The more you run into them, the less they’re going to want to tackle you,” he said.

Francis racked up over 900 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground and another 600 yards and a half-dozen touchdowns passing while leading the young Greyhounds to a surprising 7-2 record.

Intent on improving upon the passing numbers in his senior season, he is already working on his throwing skills with Halls, former Lisbon tight end Tyrese Joseph and Lewiston standout Hunter Landry in improomptu workouts.

While his first love, baseball, will take precedence in the spring and summer, both Francis and Kates are eager to refine his passing repetoire and unleash an even more complete quarterback next fall.

Lucas Francis of Lisbon High School. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

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