LISBON FALLS – Seniors all over the field. The blistering sun at Saturday afternoon home games. Those black uniforms. Superb coaching.

Lisbon High School football was the perfect storm these past two Class C campaigns, winning 21 consecutive games and putting twin Gold Balls into an already jam-packed trophy case. More than half those victories were shutouts.

Nearly everyone responsible for that Campbell Conference dominion walked away with diploma in hand in 2006 or 2007.

The only problem for this year’s Greyhounds is that everyone else’s expectations remain the same. And even as league rivals pay homage to what Lisbon by projecting the ‘Hounds as a playoff team, they’re quietly licking their chops at the idea of a little retribution.

“I kind of like it when people overlook us,” admitted Lisbon quarterback Mike Unterkoefler, one of only three returning senior lettermen from the team that thumped Foxcroft, 30-14, to defend its Class C crown.

Dick Mynahan, entering his 20th season as head coach at Lisbon, tells anyone who will listen that this year’s Greyhounds are a different breed.

Three-fifths of the offensive line will be sophomores.

The defensive line is so strapped for experience that Unterkoefler might be used as a two-way starter.

Linebackers? All new.

And to top it off, kicking specialist Nate Blackwell is still recovering from knee surgery, nine months after being injured on the first play of the state championship game.

Even Lisbon’s recent tradition of wearing down opponents in the 80-degree temperatures at Thompson Field is likely in a transition year.

“We don’t like the heat as much,” Mynahan said. “In our last scrimmage with Oak Hill, we had to quit at halftime. We’re not as experienced and not as deep. They’re not used to it yet.”

“We need to work on a little bit of conditioning and jelling as a team,” echoed senior two-way tackle Steve Michaud.

History and the law of averages are stacked against Lisbon’s hopes of a three-peat.

Marshwood (now in Class A) was the last Class C school to win three consecutive state championships, actually capping a run of four straight back in 1986.

Even in the higher enrollments, triple crowns are an anomaly. Morse was the most recent Class B program to accomplish the feat from 1970 to 1972. In Class A or the defunct AA, Biddeford is the only school ever to triple up, reaching that summit from 1965 to 1967.

It’s easy to understand why anything above a double dip is rare air. Juniors and seniors do most of the heavy lifting required to win a state championship.

Freshmen and sophomores see precious little playing time. Then they’re the ones expected to defend the giant winning streak. Lisbon is looking to junior running backs Josh Cote and Jake Cyr and sophomore linemen Joe Doughty and Art Stambach to fill its void this fall.

“I came along for the ride,” said Cote. “It was fun my freshman and sophomore years, but now I’ve got to step it up and be one of the older guys. There’s always going to be pressure on your shoulders coming off two state championships.”

The pressure is mostly external. Campbell Conference coaches choose Lisbon to challenge Livermore Falls, Jay, Boothbay, Dirigo and Winthrop for one of the four playoff spots.

“We don’t pay much attention to hype,” said Michaud.

That tunnel vision is familiar to anyone who has followed Lisbon during its run of more than a decade without missing a post-season.

Mynahan, who has guided Lisbon to four regional titles and three state trophies since 1997, doesn’t approach his replacements any differently than he dealt with his departed stars.

“We always just talk about improving, respecting our opponent and playing our best every week,” Mynahan said. “Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose, but if you’ve played your best, you know it.”

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