LISBON — Dick Mynahan was set to become the Lisbon High football coach. Whether he wanted to be or not.

Mynahan was golfing with his brother, John, late in the summer of 1986 when Joe Woodhead found the pair and pulled his car alongside them. Woodhead, the Greyhounds’ longtime coach, was stepping down, and he wanted Dick to take his spot.

Dick didn’t answer. His brother beat him to it.

“He pulled over and said ‘They told me I can quit if you take the job,’ ” Dick Mynahan said. “And my brother said ‘He’ll take the job.’ ”

He’s been the right man for it. Mynahan earned four state championship berths and three titles as the head of the Greyhounds, and now, 30 years after being sworn in at the fourth hole at Apple Valley Golf Course, he’s had enough. The 71-year-old Mynahan will coach his final game, state championship game No. 5, Saturday evening when Lisbon takes on D North champion Maine Central Institute at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland.

Mynahan’s boundless energy remains, and so does his passion for the game. But family, simply enough, came first.

“My wife is wanting to do something different in the fall now,” he said. “I’ve got some grandkids now that are high school age and I want to get involved with them. … I had to give it a lot to coach this year. I just wanted to go out in a different way. But I knew right from the very beginning this would be it.”

By the middle of this week, Mynahan had still delayed telling the players he’d led to the brink of a Class D title, players who say Mynahan has taught them as much about carrying themselves off the field as anything concerning Xs and Os.

“He tells you exactly what you need to do, game-wise,” senior captain and lineman Tanton Mattson said. “But then, at the end of the day, he’s always talking about what we need to do to be respectful young men.”

Sophomore running back Lucas Francis summed it up succinctly.

“He’s a good teacher, not just a good coach,” he said.

The idea that he’d leave anywhere close to that kind of a mark didn’t occur to Mynahan, a longtime Lisbon assistant, when he took over the Greyhounds for the 1986 season. He admittedly doubted his team-leading abilities, and on a trip to Cape Cod soon after getting the job, he brought a notebook with him and went to work figuring it out.

“I took my notebook with me and worked on some of the same plays that I’m doing today,” he said.

Some of the products of the brainstorming session became staples of Mynahan’s strategy, such as the T formation on offense and a 4-5 defense, one he brought back for Saturday’s regional final win over Winthrop/Monmouth.

“I thought we had the personnel for it,” he said. “You can’t use it all the time, but in certain situations it turns out nice for us.”

Mynahan paired those schemes with an airtight attention to detail. Opponents were obsessively scouted, and practices were meticulously arranged, with a carefully thought out amount of time allotted for each drill.

“He knows how to prepare us. He has a whole plan, he’s all precise in everything,” quarterback Tyler Halls said. “He has every formation that the team that we’re playing can possibly run, any defense that they’ll be in. He’s prepared for everything.”

“He’s got things down to the minute, and when I say minute, I mean minute,” Francis said. “At the beginning of the year, he’d say ‘Our stretches take 20 minutes one day, the next they take 22.’ ”

Mynahan normally keeps that intensity beneath a calm exterior. But there have been times when it has spilled out.

“As a freshman, I had a false start penalty, and he goes ‘You know what, Tanton? Anybody who has a false start there, they’re not a real football player,’ ” Mattson said. “That got to me. … I think that’s just one way he tries to bring out the best in people. Now that I think back, I’m grateful for it.”

It’s all part of the energy Mynahan brings to the job. He used to run behind the ballcarriers during offensive drills, and even now, he likes to take a hands-on approach when instructing a player.

“When he explains things to me, he always does a little gesture on how to do it,” Halls said. “I think it’s pretty funny.”

“You don’t feel your age on a football field,” Mynahan said. “It’s a young man’s sport, and sometimes if you’re a coach, you’re as young as the kids you’re coaching.”

The approach has worked. Mynahan guided the Greyhounds to the Class C title in 1997, holding off Dover-Foxcroft with a series of goal-line stands, and then to titles over D-F in 2005 and ’06 after the Ponies beat them in 2003.

“In ’97, that was the first one after a lot of years of coaching. That was the best feeling in the world, with the goal line stands to end the game. That was special,” he said. “The other two, I think it was just teamwork all the way through. Hard-working teams, good kids.”

The championship memories will last forever, but they have company. In many ways, that’s a reflection of how Mynahan has changed the most. The wins used to mean everything. Now he’s learned to embrace the losses.

“What always stands out in my mind more than anything else are goal line stands, coming back at the end of a game, winning a tight game,” he said. “As hard as it is to believe, there are plenty of losses I’ve felt good about because I thought we should have gotten beat by a lot more and the kids played hard.

“It’s not always been about winning. It’s about playing the game the way it should be played.”

That philosophy was exemplified Saturday afternoon in perhaps the most spectacular finish of the season. Trailing Winthrop/Monmouth by three with 16 seconds left, Lisbon got a miracle completion and then scored the winning touchdown with less than a second to go.

The players went wild. Their coach, humbled, hardly moved.

“Over the years, my ideas about winning and losing have changed a lot,” Mynahan said. “I think that after that game, I had a few moments where I understood what was going on in Winthrop’s end. It kind of bothered me a little bit. … You have to respect the opponent, I think.”

That’s been the biggest lesson stressed by Mynahan, who’s tried for all 30 years to help his players improve on and off the field and will try to steer them Saturday to one more win.

“Come out here, work hard, learn some life lessons about working hard, about contributing, about discipline, about being a part of a family,” he said. “Those things that help kids grow up and grow older. That’s all we try to do every year.”

Who knows, maybe he’s got a few more lessons to teach.

“I don’t think I’ll be too far from the Lisbon football team,” he said. “And if they need a volunteer coach, I’m always available.”

This time, it would be his call.

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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