It’s no secret in Class D football that Lisbon’s thriving ground game is built on the muscle of a powerful offensive line and an explosive and skilled backfield.

The Greyhounds’ front men come together to resemble the steel blade of a bulldozer, plowing under opponents to make way for a contingent of running backs who chew up clock while nibbling on yards but also are capable of breaking free for long-distance dashes up field.

Third-ranked Lisbon next takes its successful grind-it-out strategy to the postseason, which the Greyhounds (5-2) begin at home against sixth-seeded John Bapst/Bangor Christian (4-4) on Friday night at 7 p.m.

Lisbon guard and defensive end Landon Dewildt gears up Tuesday before football practice at Lisbon High School. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Head coach Chris Kates attributes the Greyhounds’ rushing prosperity to two factors.

“I think the play of the offensive line and the willingness of our backs and receivers to be factors in the blocking game (are responsible),” he said. “It is obviously nice when you break a big (run), but for us, it is staying on schedule with your plays, like limiting the penalties and try to average 3 or 4 yards a carry and keep getting first downs.

“In games (where) we’ve been able to limit the penalties and the mistakes, we’ve been pretty successful.”

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Lisbon’s methodical slog down the field also whittles away precious time on the clock. That strategy played a major part in what might be its defining win of the season, so far, 14-13 over top-seeded Foxcroft (7-1) — its only loss of the season— on Sept. 23, when they had a handful of clock-draining drives that limited the time the Ponies’ offense was on the field.

That victory turned the perception of the Greyhounds from a rebuilding team that started 0-2 to a 2-2 squad that looked capable of being a Class D contender — and possibly conjured up memories of the 2019 Lisbon team that started slow and then found its rhythm and rolled to a state championship.

The Greyhounds average about 21 points per game this season. They’ve only surpassed 24 points twice, but they’ve won five of their past six games and haven’t lost to a Class D foe since falling to second-seeded Freeport in Week 1.

Lisbon running back Colby Levasseur walks to football practice Tuesday at Lisbon High School. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Key to the run game’s success is a solid wedge of blockers who are always probing to create holes in opponents’ defensive lines.

“We try to find angles where we can,” Kates said. “Some games we (run) a lot outside with sweeps, and other games we focus on the middle.”

The Greyhounds do the throw the football, but Kates said rushing does most of the heavy lifting as the offense moves down the field toward the end zone.

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“That’s the nature of small-school football,” he said. “You have different kids every year — and it is not to say that we don’t throw the ball, which we do, but you obviously want to focus on what we are good at.”

Kates adds that a strong ground game can be an asset during the postseason.

“Obviously as the weather gets to be worse in playoff time, having a quality ground game is advantageous during the playoffs,” he said.

‘EVERYONE HAS THEIR ROLE’

Senior guard Landon Dewildt said it takes a total team effort to make the Greyhounds’ rushing game work.

“We go to our blocks hard and we outwork the other side,” Dewildt said. “I think we are a tough group of kids. We just like hitting people.”

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Dewildt added that many of his teammates, including himself, spent hours in the gym lifting weights.

“We also lifted in the wintertime before school,” said Dewildt, who wants to travel to see the world with U.S. Navy after he graduates.

Kates said that Dewildt’s intelligence is as important to the Greyhounds as his strength.

Lisbon tight end and defensive end Canaan Cameron goes through a drill with a teammate Tuesday before football practice at Lisbon High School. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“He is very physical in the run game,” Kates said. “He is one of our smarter players so he is always helping get the offensive line blocking the right people.”

Dewildt also starts at defensive end.

“I think I like to play defense more, but I am better at offense,” he said. 

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Senior Canaan Cameron is a dual-threat tight end, but while he can catch the ball, his accepts that his workload mostly includes lot of blocking for the Greyhounds running backs, including Colby Levasseur and Josh Carter.

“We have two great running backs who carry the rock for us,” Cameron, who is looking ahead to attending Central Maine Community College next fall, said. “We have a good offensive line that really gives a really good push, so there is really no need for me to get the ball. I am usually used as a blocker because I am a big guy. That also helps because we have a bunch of other big guys, too.

“I love being a part this. If I miss my block, it could be a major loss. So being able to see what my block can produce for us is I think probably the best part.”

Lisbon guard and defensive end Landon Dewildt jokes around with teammates Tuesday before football practice at Lisbon High School. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Kates said Cameron, who also is a defensive end, is an asset because of his blocking skills.

“The big thing with him is we can move him around in the formation, put him in the backfield,” Kates said. “He catches the ball well. He really does give us an extra offensive lineman throughout the formation.”

Levasseur enjoys finding the holes the Cameron and the offensive line open up, and then fighting for every possible yard.

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“I like being able to run the ball — those short, grimy yards,” Levasseur said. “Everyone has their own role. Everyone has to do what they have to do to let their teammate succeed. That is the key part of the offense.”

Levasseur, who is looking at colleges to study premed and play football, also knows the Greyhounds aren’t going anywhere without their offensive line opening holes.

“They (linemen) are everything,” Levasseur said. “The offensive line is great and the tight ends as well (on) blocking. They do a fantastic job of that. I am really grateful for that.”

Lisbon’s Colby Levasseur gives Fryeburg Academy’s Gunnar Saunders a stiff arm as he heads up the field for a big gain during a Sept. 9 game in Lisbon. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Kates said that Levasseur is reliable and tenacious.

“The biggest thing for (Levasseur) is he holds onto the ball, very rarely fumbles,” Kates said. “He keeps his legs moving … and he gets tough yards.”

Levasseur’s backfield mate, Carter, can fight for gains, 3 or 4 yards at a time, or break long runs. In Lisbon’s 36-21 win over Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale last week, he had TD runs of 4, 22 and 78 yards.

“He runs angry. He is a very tough kid,” Kates said. “We are fortunate to have some backs with different skill sets that can attack at different places depending on the game plan.”

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