WINTHROP — Seemingly defeated by the improbable, the Lisbon High School football team seconds later celebrated the impossible.

It’s difficult to find a different word to describe it. A go-ahead touchdown surrendered on fourth down with 16 seconds to play. A completed prayer of a pass with four ticks left. A final plunge into the end zone with less than a second to go to seal an ending as incredible as it was dramatic.

The celebrations — the hugs, the shouts, the smiles — belonged to the second-seeded Greyhounds, who got a stunning 55-yard completion from Tyler Halls to Kurtis Bolton in the closing seconds and then a 1-yard scoring run from Noah Francis to shock No. 1 Winthrop/Monmouth, 20-17, in the Class D South final Saturday afternoon.

It was an ending no one at Winthrop’s Maxwell Field had ever seen, and one not many knew how to process. On one sideline there were slammed helmets, sobs and stunned gazes of Winthrop/Monmouth players in disbelief or denial at what had happened. On the other — or, in the middle of the field, rather — there was a jubilant mob of Lisbon players and fans, ecstatic at what they had done and bewildered at how they had done it.

“Right now, I can’t think of any,” Lisbon (8-1) coach Dick Mynahan said when asked of any similar endings he could recall. “I can think of a lot where it came down to the last 30 (seconds), something like that. But never when you just throw it up for grabs. I think this might be the first one. First one’s always the best one.”

Any hope for the miracle finish seemed lost when Lisbon took over at its 44-yard line with 16 seconds left after the Ramblers (8-1) drove and took the lead on Nate Scott’s 18-yard touchdown reception on fourth-and-12. Lisbon was desperate and dismayed, but it had the right call for the situation.

“My head was down,” Halls said. “My coach said ‘It’s all good, we’re going to ‘Vanderbilt.’ That’s our vertical play.”

Halls gave his receiver a chance, hurling the ball downfield where Ramblers defenders gathered and jumped to knock it away. The ball somehow made it through the maze of arms and hands before settling into Bolton’s hands, and the senior sprinted toward the end zone before he was hauled down just short at the 1-yard line with 4.1 seconds left.

The Lisbon sideline erupted. The Greyhounds knew how unlikely the play was, and with 280-pound fullback Noah Francis trotting on the field, what it meant.

“I knew Noah was going to get in,” Halls said. “He’s the biggest running back in the state, the hardest runner.”

Halls was right — barely. Francis surged ahead, and after a push from the Winthrop/Monmouth defense, lunged forward a final time for the touchdown with only 0.8 seconds remaining.

“I was just in shock that we came up with that big play,” said Francis, who had 81 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. “When coach came in the huddle just I told him ‘Coach, give me the ball. I’m getting this in for us.’ ”

The order wasn’t necessary. Mynahan wasn’t going to anyone else.

“Noah’s worked so hard, this game meant so much to him,” he said. “He gets every hard yard for us.”

The finish somehow overshadowed the drive that preceded it. The mayhem began with 2:09 to play, after Lucas Francis’s 3-yard run put Lisbon ahead 14-10. Quarterback Matt Ingram, in the midst of a second-half turnaround after a miserable first, steadily guided the Ramblers down the field from their own 39-yard line. There was an 8-yard pass to Bennett Brooks on second-and-10 to the Lisbon 41. A 4-yard pass to Tyler Cote two plays later on fourth-and-2 to the Lisbon 37. Then a pass to Brooks along the left sideline, who spun, made a man miss and turned it into a 21-yard gain down to the 16-yard line.

“Dwelling on what happened in the first half wasn’t going to help me at all,” said Ingram, who completed two of 10 passes for 18 yards in the first half but nine of 14 for 117 in the second. “It came down in the end to the last couple of minutes. I just zoned out everything and stayed focused.”

The drive seemed to stall there, as Lisbon stiffened to force a fourth-and-12 from the 18. Ingram ignored the rush around him, kept his eyes downfield and found Scott crossing over the middle. Scott made a defender miss, shook another and dove into the end zone for the touchdown and a 17-14 lead with only 16.4 seconds to play.

“We called the play in the huddle for the last two plays of our offense,” Ramblers coach Dave St. Hilaire said. “We didn’t have the right lineup, we kind of drew something up. … The second play, it wasn’t the right call, but he hit Nate and Nate made a play.

“Hell of a game. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the result we wanted. We thought we had it.”

The wild finish was a change in narrative from what was a defensive struggle early on. Winthrop/Monmouth led 3-0 at the half on Cote’s 29-yard field goal, as the Ramblers shut down Lisbon’s powerful run game.

Winthrop/Monmouth lost defenders Luke St. Hilaire and Morgan Bellemare to injury, however, and the Ramblers struggled to hold up in the second half. Lisbon broke through on its first drive after the break, going 70 yards in 19 plays and 8:30 of clock and finishing with Noah Francis’s 1-yard run for an 8-3 lead with 3:30 left in the third.

The Ramblers responded two drives later, relying on a connection from Ingram to Brooks. Held without a reception in the first half, Brooks (five catches, 93 yards) caught three passes on the drive, the last a 44-yard touchdown on a hitch-and-go to make the lead 10-8 with 9:15 to play.

“He’s one of the best receivers in the state,” Ingram said. “That kept us going. That was all on him.”

But the Ramblers couldn’t stop the Lisbon ground game, and the Greyhounds took the advantage back, covering 61 yards in 7:16 and finishing the march with a 3-yard run from Lucas Francis (24 carries, 116 yards) with 2:09 to play.

“They send an army after you,” coach St. Hilaire said. “We weren’t giving up big plays, but it was four, five, four, five, five. Too much on first down.”

That was only the beginning. After nearly 58 minutes of play, neither player nor coach could predict what was coming next.

“I’m sitting there, tears coming down my face, and then I look down the sideline and see Kurtis with the ball,” Noah Francis said. “It blew my mind. … I’m speechless about what just happened.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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