Dan Bolton of Lisbon sacks Bucksport quarterback Brady Findlay on fourth down late in the game to seal the win for the Greyhounds. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

PORTLAND — Lisbon hemmed in the Bucksport Golden Bucks running game in Saturday’s Class D state championship with a defensive game plan that would have made Marlin Perkins of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom proud.

Bucksport’s power running game kept the Greyhounds’ defense on the field for more than 30 minutes, a time-of-possession imbalance that normally would make coaches fret. But it wasn’t much of a concern for Lisbon’s coaches or players, because they knew exactly who was the hunter and who was the prey in their 28-8 victory.

“All week, our coach has been sending us videos of big cats hunting down gazelles,” senior linebacker Cam Bourget said. “We’re the big cats hunting down the Bucks.”

The big cats, or the Greyhounds as they are better known locally, waited patiently on their Serengeti, aka Fitzpatrick Stadium, for the right time to strike.

Very patiently.

“We just kept them slow-gaining,” Bourget said. “That’s why they were on the field, but they were gaining hard yards off us. We gave them a couple of big runs, but not many.”

Utilizing a herd of running backs galloping behind the biggest offensive line the Greyhounds faced all year, the thundering Bucks ran the ball 53 times for 245 yards (4.4 per carry) on Saturday. The Bucks controlled the ball for 19 minutes of the 24-minute first half. The Bucks, who averaged 41 points per game this season, scored once on the cats, er, Greyhounds.

“We had a couple of unique looks in there but for the most part it was stuff we’ve done most of the year, just maybe not in the last couple of weeks,” Lisbon coach Chris Kates said. “We adjusted to the power formations, trying not to give them easy down-blocks on the plays they want to run off-tackle, and basically try to free up the linebackers so they could run and make plays.”

Usually those plays required staying disciplined and meeting Bucksport freshman running back Jaxon Gross (34 attempts, 189 yards, TD) at the point of attack. Bucksport’s massive offensive line frequently moved that point two or three yards beyond the line of scrimmage. It was the job of linebackers Bourget, Colin Houle and Justin Le to limit how much farther Gross got beyond those first two or three yards.

Lisbon players react from the sideline after a big gain by running back Daytona McIver in Portland on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“(Gross) was able to burst through the first level quite a bit,” Kates said, “but what we’ve seen in previous weeks (scouting Bucksport) is 35-, 40-yard runs. Those will break your back over the course of the game. It’s tough to sustain a drive where you’re getting three or four yards (per play).”

“We were trying to attack them from the sides and funnel all of their runs back inside so we could make some side tackles on them,” Kates added. “The linebackers flew around today. They’ve been doing that all season for us.”

Kates credited defensive coordinator Jon Tefft with the game plan and disseminating the how-to wildlife videos that hammered home the linebackers’ vital role.

“Flank, flank, flank,” Bourget said. “We’re not going to beat them up front so we’re going to flank them.”

And Lisbon owned the flanks thanks to its speedy secondary, led by seniors Riley Quatrano (two interceptions) and Robbie Dick.

Both of Quatrano’s interceptions set up Lisbon touchdowns. The first, an ill-advised toss into double coverage by Bucksport senior QB Brady Findlay, ended the game’s opening drive. Quatrano’s 22-yard return to midfield gave the offense prime starting position for the game’s first score, Leeman’s 17-yard TD pass to Le on fourth-and-7.

Colin Houle of Lisbon stops a Bucksport ball carrier at the line of scrimmage in Portland on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“On the first one, I really had no idea where I was,” Quatrano said. “I guess he threw it into me and Seth (Leeman). Luckily, I just got to it. We saw an article that said he hadn’t thrown an interception all year.”

Dick, St. Dominic Academy’s first and foremost contribution to Lisbon’s rich football history, made two big stops from his cornerback spot. The first, a tackle that held sophomore wide receiver Tyler Hallett to a three-yard gain on fourth-and-11 from Lisbon’s 12, ended Bucksport’s epic yet fruitless 18-play, 81-yard drive that burned 9:11 off the clock after Lisbon went up 7-0.

“Coach had a perfect call,” Dick said. “He called it so I had flats and our linebacker was out deep and, I mean, we just saw it developing.”

The second pick by Quatrano, which was tipped at the line by defensive tackle Hunter Mason, set up the offense at the exact same spot as the first one, Lisbon’s 48, and led to Le’s second touchdown that made it 21-8 late in the third quarter.

“If he didn’t tip it, I wouldn’t have got that,” Quatrano said. “My guy ran a 10-and-out (route) and when it got tipped it slowed it down and I was able to undercut it and pick it off and get my feet inbounds.”

Dick needed his quick feet for his second big stop, which clinched Lisbon’s first gold ball since 2006.

The Lisbon Greyhounds take the field at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Bucksport still had time to rally from down 21-8 when it recovered a Lisbon fumble at its own 43 with 6:28 to play. The Bucks drove to the Lisbon 31 but two straight incompletions brought up a third-and-10, forcing them to reach into their bag of tricks by having junior wide receiver Logan Stanley stop on an end-around and fire a pass downfield for Hallett.

Dick initially held his spot to set the edge if and when Stanley tried to turn his corner, but quickly recognized the ball-carrier was winding up to throw. He turned and closed the gap on Hallett just enough to break up the pass, a la the New England Patriots’ Jason McCourty saving a touchdown in Super Bowl LII, and set up Bucksport’s unsuccessful fourth down.

“We practiced that a lot in practice,” Dick said. “We knew they were going to do something like that, trick plays, double moves. At first he got me. I mean, I barely recovered. I just had to go.”

“I think we used our speed really well,” Quatrano said. “Speed beats size, as usual.”

And this time, the big cats beat the gazelles and got themselves a trophy.


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