WINTHROP — For the last several weeks, the Winthrop/Monmouth and Lisbon football teams have been on a collision course for the Campbell Conference championship game.

They’ll finally square off Saturday afternoon. Furthermore, Ramblers coach Dave St. Hilaire says, the meeting has been in the making for even longer than that.

“We’ve been anticipating this for about eight years now,” he said.

It isn’t exaggeration. Long before they were dueling in Class D, Winthrop/Monmouth’s and Lisbon’s players were going to head-to-head in youth football in the Central Maine Football League. There’s no need for study sessions with scouting reports to learn the opposition. Even before they crossed into the high school ranks, the Ramblers’ and Greyhounds’ familiarity with each other stretched through the years.

“We know the names of a lot of their guys, they know the names of a lot of our guys,” St. Hilaire said.

The CMFL is made up of three tiers, one for grades 3-4, one for grades 5-6, and one for middle school. Championship matchups were common — as were Lisbon victories in them.

“We play in the same league … with the two-year cycle, and both teams are dominant vs. the other teams,” St. Hilaire said. “We played them in the championship game all three times. … Each time, they had our number.”

Nothing like a rematch to settle those old scores. Winthrop/Monmouth topped Lisbon, 31-12, in the opening week of the season, but St. Hilaire said that even back in those warm September days he had a feeling they’d meet again with far greater stakes.

“We kind of knew that it was going to come to the two of us fighting to see who was going to go to the state title,” he said. “It was good to get that win early in the season, but it’s all or nothing right now.”

The Ramblers know that stopping Lisbon means finding an answer for its power running game, one led by Noah Francis, a 285-pound ball-carrying menace. Stopping him isn’t easy, but at least the Winthrop/Monmouth players have a head start from those battles of yesteryear.

“The kids have been tackling him, a lot of these guys, since third grade,” he said. “He was big then, he’s obviously a lot bigger now, but he’s always been big. We know what he brings.”

At the same time, he acknowledged, things have changed a bit since the elementary and middle school days.

“We’ve seen him leap guys that are standing,” St. Hilaire said. “In the last three weeks, he’s leaped two guys. He’s pretty nimble too.”

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The Ramblers may be confident that they know the Greyhounds inside and out, but Lisbon showed it has a knack for keeping teams guessing.

Lisbon overpowered Oak Hill in the semifinals, 42-9, and unveiled a new wrinkle in the process. Quarterback Tyler Halls, one of the team’s best athletes, began lining up as a running back, with halfback Lucas Francis taking the snaps at quarterback. It wasn’t just a quirky way to line up; the roles were changed as well, with Francis hitting Halls for a 39-yard touchdown early in the second half and then converting a third-and-11 with a pass late in the third.

“We’ve practiced it for the last two weeks,” Francis said. “We were just waiting for the right time to bust it out. We knew we were getting the ball back and we wanted to put it away early.”

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Tricky plays and setups were in vogue in the regional semifinal weekend. Up in Brewer, Cony tried to get in on the action.

The Rams tried two gadget plays in their 44-34 loss to Brewer. The first occurred on Cony’s first play from scrimmage in the second quarter, with quarterback Taylor Heath throwing back left to former JV quarterback Chad Bickford, who then threw the ball down to Elijah Dutil streaking down the left sideline. The Rams had the play, as Dutil was clear of the defense, but just missed on the connection as Bickford’s throw glanced off a reaching Dutil’s fingertips and fell incomplete.

The timing stung. Cony led 7-0 at the time, and with the play on its way to being a long gain or even a touchdown, the incompletion may have cost the Rams a chance for a two-score lead on the favored Witches.

“It hit Eli in both hands, but he kind of had to extend a little bit,” coach B.L. Lippert said. “Would have been nice to get that one and go up 14-0. They almost executed it perfectly. It was certainly open.”

The second came late in the third on a first-and-10 from the Cony 46. Receiver Jordan Roddy started in motion from the right and took the handoff from Heath, and then handed it to Bickford coming from the left slot. Bickford then threw to Heath going up the right side for a 5-yard gain that became a 20-yard pickup after a horsecollar tackle, but Lippert said that play was missing just a little extra as well.

“We were supposed to have a couple of linemen out in front, but there was a little confusion in the huddle,” he said. “Our right side of the line didn’t hear the screen portion of that play. They thought it was a reverse. ,.. It was a 20-yard gain but we were hoping to get those two linemen out in front, give him some blockers.”

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It’s been a season to forget for Kents Hill School, but Saturday could still be an afternoon to remember.

The annual game between rivals Kents Hill and Hebron Academy is up next, with the winner getting possession of a chair that gets kept in the winner’s headmaster’s office until the following season. Kents Hill has lost the game three years in a row after winning six straight times, and coach Steve Shukie said he’s getting tired of seeing the Kents Hill office shy one extra piece of furniture.

“On our (campus) it’s as soon as you walk in the front door of the main building,” he said. “I saw it every day for three months my first year here, and I haven’t seen it since.”

The Huskies have struggled to compete throughout an 0-7 season, but Shukie said there’s a rejuvenating factor to the rivalry.

“For a lot of guys it’s new, and we really emphasize the importance of the game,” he said. “At the end of practice every day we run one extra sprint for Hebron. … You could lose all the other games and win this one, and it’d be a good year.”

And it’s not just bravado. Shukie has been in the opposite position, going up against a down-on-its-luck Hebron team, and he said it showed him that the records don’t always dictate who will win.

“My first year, we had a pretty good season and Hebron did not. And they beat us,” he said. “That really shocked us, and you could see the carryover into the following year. … There is that part to it, you end the year with a taste in your mouth and you get bragging rights.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

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Twitter: @dbonifantMTM