When Winthrop/Monmouth and Lisbon faced off in the first week of the season, there was a thought that maybe the teams would likely meet again down the line, at some point in the postseason.

That thought became a reality last Saturday, when the Greyhounds ousted Oak Hill, one day after the Ramblers downed Dirigo. That set up a rematch between the two teams, and this time with much more on the line than the season-opener: the Class D South championship and a trip to the state title game.

But what can these two teams take from a game that took place 10 weeks earlier when it was about 30 degrees warmer?

For the Ramblers, apparently not much.

“What we can take from that is the kids know that we can beat them,” Ramblers coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “Other than that, it’s a totally different team that we’re facing, and we’re a totally different team. It seems like years ago, playing them.”

There’s a little more that Lisbon can look back on from its lone loss of the season.

“There’s a lot that we can learn from that, because we made a lot of mistakes,” Lisbon coach Dick Mynahan said. “Not staying home, not covering our own territory. We can see that on film, and the kids can learn a lot from that and hopefully improve.”

By virtue of that win, Winthrop/Monmouth ended up earning the No. 1 seed, thanks to an unblemished 7-0 regular-season record, and gets to have homefield advantage in the regional final. The first matchup was in Lisbon, but the Greyhounds, who finished second in the conference, couldn’t utilize their own advantage.

If there’s any consolation for the Greyhounds, it’s that the game will take place at a time that they’re used to playing at home. The game will be Saturday afternoon, as opposed to the Friday night, which is when the Ramblers are used to playing their home games.

Additionally, Lisbon is making its third straight appearance in the regional final. Mynahan hopes that previous experience can give his team some kind of an advantage.

“We know what it’s like to lose,” he said.

Speaking of losing, the Greyhounds have grown quite a bit since that season-opening loss. They’ve reeled off seven straight wins, with none being within 20 points.

“No. 1, I think that our kids are just in a lot better shape than they were in that first game,” Mynahan said. “It’s going to be a big help to us. And I think our offense has kind of grown since that first game, and hopefully we can find something that might work for us.”

The Greyhounds might have found a new wrinkle a week ago, when they put three-year starting quarterback Tyler Halls at wide receiver and sophomore running back Lucas Francis at quarterback in the second half. The two hooked up for a touchdown pass, after doing so from their original roles in the first half.

“We had a few weeks there where we had time off, and to keep the boredom out of practice we tried some different things, and they happened to work,” Mynahan said. “It gives a lot for the other team to practice.”

And doesn’t St. Hilaire know it.

“It’s a nice, little package that they showed last week, where they’re getting (Halls) outside, get him to use his speed in the run game and also as a receiver,” St. Hilaire said. “So it just makes us prepare for another dimension.”

The Lisbon attack has come a long way since week one, when the Ramblers simply had to stop the power run and keep Halls contained in the pocket. The Greyhounds were held to 12 points in that contest, but have scored at least 30 every game since.

But none of those games have included a Ramblers defense like that of the Ramblers, who has given up more than one score in just one game since the opener.

“They handled us well in most of the things we did the first game,” Mynahan said. “We have to block and sustain our blocks, and hold them a little bit longer. I thought the first game we didn’t really follow through, and we weren’t as physical as I’d like to have seen us been. I’m hoping that we’re probably going to be a little more physical on Saturday.

“They work hard at every play, and they stay at home. They have some kids that play with a lot of determination, and they play a little bit bigger than their size.”

The Ramblers feed off their dominant defense with an offense that can be just as effective on the scoreboard as Lisbon’s. And the Winthrop/Monmouth attack might be the most balanced in the conference, equally adept at both the run and the pass.

“We’d like to attack the field vertically and horizontally. If we’re able to do that, by using all of our weapons, they can’t take and load up nine guys in the box or drop back and play cover-4,” St. Hilaire said. “When we can use all our weapons, that’s when we’re obviously at our best.”

Mynahan noted that Ramblers senior quarterback Matt Ingram — like Halls, a three-year starter — accounted for what he estimated was 275 yards in the first matchup. But the Ramblers also have three quality runners in Alec Brown, Nate Scott and Andrew Pazdziorko, and Bennett Brooks is a tough-to-cover receiver.

“They just have a lot of options that they can go to,” Mynahan said. “It’s going to be hard to defend the field against them. They make you defend the whole field. I’m guessing we’ll have to take a few chances here or there if we hope to slow them down any.”

If the game comes down to special teams, each team can claim an advantage. The Ramblers have a reliable kicker in Tyler Cote, while the Greyhounds have Halls and a host of other returners who can flip field position in a hurry.

St. Hilaire said making Lisbon carry out long drives — no big plays, no short fields — will be a help to his team.

Mynahan is looking for his team to play disciplined.

“If we want to have any chance at all in this game — because they beat us so soundly in the first game — we have to play kind of a perfect game, and not get penalties and not turn the ball over,” Mynahan said. “I think that’s kind of the key for us.”

By mid-afternoon Saturday, one of the teams will break through for their first state title appearance this decade. The Ramblers last played in a state championship in 2008 — before combining with Monmouth. The Greyhounds’ last appearance was in 2006.

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