Winthrop/Monmouth coach Dave St. Hilaire is familiar with the Lisbon Greyhounds, having faced them twice this season. He also has seen the MCI Huskies play twice this season, against Bucksport in the second week of the season, and last week in the regional final against Dexter. The Ramblers coach provides a coach’s perspective of Saturday’s Class D State championship matchup:

MCI coaches and players were at last week’s Class D South region final between Lisbon and Winthrop/Monmouth. If they didn’t already know before that game, then they do now: the Greyhounds are going to pound the ball, and then pound it some more.

The Huskies can expect a heavy dose of Noah and Lucas Francis running up the gut. They’ll see Halls run outside and inside. Jared Glover will be involved.

“It’s power football, first and foremost,” St. Hilaire said.

Slowing the Greyhounds’ run game might not be enough because they are completely at home on laborious 15-plus-play drives. MCI has to find a way to stop the ground attack.

“They’ve got to be able to stop that power football and make them play something that they’re not comfortable playing,” St. Hilaire said.


In other words, MCI needs to force Lisbon to pass.

The Greyhounds have had some success throwing the ball this the season, but it isn’t their preferred attack — of their 71 offensive plays against Winthrop/Monmouth, 65 were runs.

If Lisbon does have to throw the ball, St. Hilaire said tight end Tyrese Joseph will need to be a factor.

In the games St. Hilaire saw, the Huskies favor playing man-to-man underneath. That doesn’t jive well with Lisbon’s passing formations, which often have receivers lining up in bunches on one side. If the Huskies have a zone defense, they’ll probably need to utilize it on passing downs Saturday.

To get Lisbon to throw the ball, the Huskies need to win the trenches. St. Hilaire said said MCI’s defensive line has speed and “decent” size, but the lineman will need to play bigger than their size against the Greyhounds’ large blockers.

“You can’t play Lisbon with guys who don’t hold their own,” St. Hilaire.


Another interesting matchup will come on special teams. The Greyhounds don’t have a tremendous kicking game, but their punting style might neutralize MCI’s Josh Buker, who has returned eight punts for touchdowns.

Lisbon does rugby punts with Halls, which St. Hilaire said essentially gives Halls a punt-or-run option.

Buker’s returns are one of the Huskies’ greatest weapons. But if they try to set up a return, they risk leaving an opening for Halls to exploit. Furthermore, Lisbon isn’t afraid to try fake punts even deep in their own territory.

“That’s kind of the chess match they have to play,” St. Hilaire said. “If you’re dropping back for a return and not thinking defense, (Halls will) burn you.”

Huskies senior quarterback Josh Buker is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

“Their quarterback is probably their most dangerous player,” St. Hilaire said.


St. Hilaire said that Buker is MCI’s speed player. The Huskies will run jet sweeps with their running backs to set up what looks to St. Hilaire like a read option — basically, spread out the defense so Buker can run up the middle.

“I think it’s a designed run,” St. Hilaire said.

And when Buker runs, he’s dangerous. There’s no better evidence of that than his eight punt returns for touchdowns this season.

Willie Moss is MCI’s top running back, but Eli Bussell will see a lot of action as well. And Adam Bertrand is an experienced fullback.

There’s more to Buker than avoiding tacklers and making big plays, and there’s more to the Huskies’ offense than running the ball. MCI also can strike through the air, and is the rare team that will line up five receivers at once. Baker knows how to use them.

“He’ll throw quite a bit, and a lot downfield,” St. Hilaire said. “He doesn’t have a really strong arm, but he he’s got good receivers and can hit the intermediate stuff.”


St. Hilaire said that Buker’s go-to receiver in the games he saw was David Young, who is listed as a tight end.

Against Lisbon, Winthrop/Monmouth came back to take leads twice in the fourth quarter of the Class D South regional final by going to the air. So the Huskies’ pass attack could be crucial, if not vital, to Saturday’s title game.

“The only way MCI can beat Lisbon is to throw the ball,” St. Hilaire said.

What St. Hilaire didn’t see when the Huskies went to their pass attack was much pressure by the defense.

St. Hilaire said that the Ramblers would have sent pressure if they faced MCI, and he thinks Lisbon’s defensive line, with pass rushers like Tyrese Joseph and Noah Francis, will be able to pressure Buker on Saturday.

“I just don’t think MCI can match up with those big lineman,” St. Hilaire said.

Another weapon the Huskies have is kicker Devon Varney.

“Their kicker is outstanding,” St. Hilaire said, adding that Varney is money on extra points and can reach the end zone on kickoffs. St. Hilaire hasn’t seen Varney attempt a long field goal, but estimates his range could extend as far as 40 to 45 yards.

The Greyhounds, meanwhile, don’t have a kicker, and instead attempt two-point conversions after touchdowns. If the teams swap touchdown for touchdown, Varney’s ability to make PATs could come into play.

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