Safe bet: Lisbon High School and Foxcroft Academy will reach the Class C football championship game.

Stupid bet: Trying to predict what will happen once they get there. Big high school football games aren’t adorned with Roman numerals. If you’re keeping score, however, today’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Fitzpatrick Stadium marks Lisbon-Foxcroft IV.

All three previous installments, dating back to 1997, were thrillers. Goal-line stands factored in the first and last. The original ended with a 96-yard scoring drive on a field covered with ice and mud.

So go ahead and handicap this one. Both teams are undefeated at 11-0. Both are senior-dominated. One team is defined by its defense, the other by its depth.

It’s a rivalry wrought by fate more than geography, and it’s one in which familiarity breeds only respect.

“We get to play them in the playoffs enough times that it gets to the point where they almost feel like a regular-season opponent,” said Foxcroft coach Paul Withee.

Lisbon hopes to treat Foxcroft like most of its regular-season opponents and reduce the end zone to a figment of the Ponies’ imagination. The Greyhounds posted four shutouts this fall and didn’t allow any Campbell Conference opposition more than one touchdown in a game.

Slippery-fast linebackers Jesse Moan, Dan Willis and Ryan Giusto set the tone. Lisbon also boasts a pair of athletic defensive ends, Zach Bubar and Devan Knight, and run-stuffing tackles Mark Stambach, Steve Michaud and Derick Bolton.

“They held us to seven points on a punt return last year,” Withee said, “and they had juniors making big plays for them that entire game.”

Foxcroft piled up plenty of points against lesser competition than Lisbon. The Ponies pinned 62 on John Bapst, 53 on Stearns, 50 on Orono, and 40-plus against MCI and Rockland.

“I think we would prefer a low-scoring game,” said Lisbon coach Dick Mynahan. “If it’s a low-scoring game, we feel good about our chances. If it’s a high-scoring game, we might not be as happy with the result.”

Of all Lisbon’s defensive gems this fall, the one that gets Foxcroft’s attention is a 27-0 blanking of Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln in an East-West crossover game. The Greyhounds limited the bigger and more highly regarded Lynx to 41 yards net offense.

Foxcroft twice struggled with Mattanawcook, backing up a 21-15 October win with a 14-13 survival in last week’s Little Ten Conference championship game.

“We told the kids after the Mattanawcook game that we didn’t play very well and that we were lucky to be going on, but also that at this point in the year it’s more important to be lucky than good,” Withee said.

The Ponies have lived up to their nickname for years, and this year’s bunch is perhaps more beholden to the running game than ever. Four of Foxcroft’s offensive linemen started in last year’s final. The fifth, David White, moved from guard to quarterback this year.

Tackles Bill Macomber and Shaw Weeks, center Tim Nason and guards Adam Dow and Adam Leprevost create room for a backfield-by-committee that has rambled for more than 3,000 total yards.

Brad Bellemare is the featured back, but Foxcroft also throws David Frasz, Jared Rideout and fullback Ian Imbert into the mix. White is a threat to gain big yardage on the bootleg or to roll out and find receivers David Farrar and Jon Geiger on the run.

Defensively, Foxcroft runs a 4-4 alignment with the same brand of liberal substitution. The mainstays are Macomber at end, Weeks and Imbert at linebacker and Bellemare in the secondary.

“If you watch their game films, they’re bringing kids on and off the field all the time. I’m sure part of their game plan is to wear us out,” Mynahan said.

With Dan Willis (1,200 yards, 15 touchdowns) leading the running game and QB Mike Unterkoefler (8 TD passes) finding Bubar and Joe Stevens on the flanks, Lisbon also is capable of keeping a defense on its heels. While they try to grind it out, the Greyhounds wouldn’t mind forcing the Ponies to do the same.

“I think if you look back at the games with them over the years, they’ve hit a lot of big, big plays,” Mynahan said. “We’ve seen a lot of 15-play drives by us and a lot of one-play drives by them. We need to prevent those.”

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