Lisbon quarterback Seth Leeman drops back to pass during the Class D South championship game Friday in Lewiston. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Game plans aren’t easy to construct. They take lot of time, film study, analysis and practice.

Nevertheless, some of the best coaching is done when coaches alter or even scrap their game plan after the opening kickoff, even if it means setting all of the hard work and preparation aside and taking what the opposition is giving them.

That’s what Lisbon coach Chris Kates and his staff did from the Greyhounds’ first play from scrimmage in their 25-15 win over Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale in the Class D South final.

One week after their dominating run game required senior quarterback Seth Leeman to attempt only one pass in a 48-20 semifinal triumph over Oak Hill, the Greyhounds saw how the Ramblers were lined up to stop the run on their first play from scrimmage and decided to give Leeman the green light to air it out.

“Honestly, we were coming out in power, but we saw how they lined up on the first play and shifted gears,” Kates said. “Seth looked real good in pre-game throwing the ball so we just kind of went for it.”

Lisbon, which includes players from St. Dom’s, planned on getting speedy senior wide receivers Robbie Dick and Riley Quatrano more involved in the offense Friday night. But when the coaches saw how the Ramblers matched up and how much open space they would have to operate, they quickly put more impetus on the passing game.

Along with Leeman, the duo rewarded them for the decision with three big plays on the Greyhounds’ opening touchdown drive — completions of 22 and 24 yards to Dick and 16 yards to Quatrano.

“We planned to spread them but not necessarily throw that much,” Kates said. “We wanted to get the ball on the perimeter and run with our speed, but we had some space with our wide receivers and those are two good athletes, Riley and Robbie. They haven’t got a lot of love this year with the pass game because we’ve been running so much, but they had a great game today and they’re a big reason why we won.”

“They did a hell of a job finding the football and making a play,” Leeman said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

Kates was proud of how Leeman has responded to what they saw as a slight from the Campbell Conference coaches voting on the all-conference team at the end of the regular season. Leeman rushed for 188 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Oak Hill, then completed five of eight passes for 120 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 53 yards and another score in the final.

“He’s obviously a good athlete. He’s done everything I’ve asked him this year,” Kates said. “I think he felt like he got snubbed a little bit from the all-star team, and I think probably his two best games he’s had the entire year followed the all-star voting, and I think he just responded to it and the kids rallied around him. The whole team loves him. I love to see the passion he brings on the field.”

HORNETS’ SECONDARY IS FIRST-RATE

When Leavitt played York during the regular season, a patch-work secondary held its own against York’s strong passing game, and held the Wildcats scoreless in the first half. In a rematch in the Class C South regional final, Teagan Hynes and the York offense got going on its first drive against a full-strength Leavitt defensive backfield. Hynes was 3 for 3 passing for 39 yards before running the ball in for a touchdown.

Leavitt’s Mark Herman, right breaks up a pass intended for York’s Evan Bourgoine during the first half of Friday’s game in Turner. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

After that, the Hornets clamped down against the pass and held Hynes to 8 of 21 passing with two interceptions and no touchdowns the rest of the way.

“We just tightened up on coverage,” Leavitt coach Mike Hathaway said. “I think we came out, and we wanted to play a lot of man free tonight, and we were just a little too soft, and we had to trust ourselves more. Get up, and get in their face and challenge them. You know, Damion (Calder), DaSean (Calder), Al (Peabody) and Markie (Herman) in man coverage all night against a good receiving team like that, that was clutch for us.”

Hathaway also noted that his team doesn’t often blitz, and that was the case again Friday night. The Hornets’ base pass rush also rarely got to Hynes in the way of any sacks. But the defense still did its job after the opening drive.

“We had to play some really good defense tonight,” senior defensive end Cole Morin said. “Everybody had to play their square perfect. We came out here and got it done.”

The play of the secondary, highlighted by picks from Damion Calder and Mark Herman and several defended passes from multiple players, played a big role in the performance.

VIKINGS BID SENIORS BON VOYAGE

The senior class that played its last football game for Oxford Hills in Saturday’s Class A semifinal loss to unbeaten Thornton Academy has come a long way since middle school football. Coach Mark Soehren made sure to remind the 10 departing Vikings just how far after the game.

“I think they won one game in middle school,” Soehren said. “I told them they had 40-some (players) on that team and they’re down to 10, and that’s a high-quality 10. It’s a testament to who they are, to lead this young team to the semifinals for the second straight year. I just couldn’t be more proud of that senior class.”

On the field, the loss of David Dingley, Cole Dunham, Tanner Herrick, Michael O’Neil, Noah Oufiero, Garrett Pendexter, Riley Smith, Cade Truman, Colby VanDecker and JJ Worster will be felt at all three levels.

Some of the seniors played integral roles as juniors in the Vikings reaching their first regional final in 19 years. Several more stepped up this year to fill the void left by last year’s deep and talented senior class and once again get Oxford Hills within one win of the state championship game in what many observers thought would be a rebuilding year.

SENIORS RAMBLIN’ ON

Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale coach Dave St. Hilaire summed up his seniors’ selflessness with a story about an encounter with wide receiver Ryan Baird after a mid-season 49-14 win over Madison in which he had caught a pair of touchdown passes.

“When we arrived back at our locker room,” St. Hilaire said, “he asked me when the film would be uploaded for the team to view before telling me, ‘Coach, wait until you see my blocks.'”

“I can’t say enough about this group of seniors,” he added. “When they strapped up, they came to play. They enjoyed practicing and competing, whether it be a game or just a practice rep.”

The Ramblers’ greatest strength was their depth of talent, which gave their coaches numerous options when they were determining who or what to feature against opponents. On another team, many of the players would have put up big numbers, but the players were content to share the wealth, St. Hilaire said.

“Everyone knew their role and understood what it meant,” he said. “We had a number of talented kids who could run and catch. No one received a lot of touches in any game and we were able to spread the ball around. Not once did any of them complain about not getting the ball enough.”

Although few Ramblers posted stunning stats, Campbell Conference coaches still recognized six of their seniors as all-stars: Baird, quarterback Keegan Choate, defensive end Jevin Smith, safety Jake Sousa, center Shane Tweedie and defensive tackle Jake Umberhind.

St. Hilaire singled out Choate, a three-year starter at QB who had his best season despite spraining the AC joint in his throwing shoulder in the first quarter of the first game of the season against MCI. The coach called him “an interesting young man and the toughest I have coached in my 30 years of coaching football, baseball and hockey.”

“For the next three weeks (after the injury), which included the Oak Hill and Lisbon games, he could barely lift his shoulder and was limited throughout the practice weeks in how much we had him throw,” St. Hilaire said.

The shoulder and other injuries on the roster forced the Ramblers to scrap plans to have Choate run the ball more and play on defense this year. Even with the load management, St. Hilaire said Choate might not have been able to physically withstand the season without the hard work he put in during the offseason.

“When we decided to give the kids the option of either lifting at 6:30 a.m. or p.m. for the three days of our offseason workouts, Keegan chose to attend both sessions to work out and assist his teammates with their sessions,” St. Hilaire said. “He never missed one workout, although he did show up late to an evening one after he miscalculated how long it would take to run the four miles from his house to the weight room.”

The hard work helped Choate put up impressive numbers (1,545 yards, 23 TDs, 7 INTs passing, 331 yards and four TDs rushing). But good luck getting the captain to promote his own accomplishments.

“Our kids helmets are littered with stickers for their performance on the field,” St. Hilaire said, “whether it be for offense (stars), defense (skulls), special teams (Superman) or pancake blocks (pancakes dripping with syrup). Keegan never put any stickers on his helmet. He only believed one stat to be important and that was wins.”


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