Dave St. Hilaire started saying it the moment the playoff matchups were released. His Winthrop/Monmouth Ramblers, and their seniors in particular, were happy they were getting another crack at third-seeded Lisbon.

Then, on Saturday, the sixth-seeded Ramblers backed up those words, knocking off the third-seeded Greyhounds, 28-13, to register Class D’s first upset this postseason.

“The kids really wanted to play Lisbon again, especially the seniors from last year,” said St. Hilaire, whose team has won four of its last five games. “To be able to come through (Saturday), and in a playoff game, that’s sweet for those kids.”

There was a clear emotional angle to the victory, as it came in Winthrop/Monmouth’s first non-scrimmage matchup with Lisbon since the Greyhounds shocked the Ramblers, 20-17, in last year’s D South championship game to cut short their march to a state final. But just as importantly, Saturday scratched a strength of schedule itch, since Winthrop/Monmouth had won four games in total and three of its last four, but hadn’t beaten any of the teams in D South’s top tier.

And now, the Ramblers have.

“To play a team with a 7-1 record and beat them was a real confidence boost,” St. Hilaire said. “That just really gives them great confidence to head up to (No. 2) Madison.”

The victory required a combination of belief before the game and resilience during it. The Ramblers knew going in that they had a chance to pull the upset, then held off the Greyhounds and standout quarterback Lucas Francis after bouncing back from a 7-0 deficit and taking a 21-13 lead with just over two minutes to go.

Whether the momentum from the win can translate into another stunner against Madison remains to be seen, but the Ramblers showed they’re not a team to write off too quickly.

“These kids are resilient as resilient can be,” St. Hilaire said. “They have confidence that they can win any game. They were confident going in against Wells and they were confident going in against Madison. We got lit up in both games, but the kids were certainly believing in themselves and the gameplan and the coaching staff that they can win.

“If you can’t believe it, it’s not going to happen.”

• • •

Last year, Cony shook off a mediocre season, finished strong and impressed in the postseason.

This time, after a regular season that promised more, the Rams had to deal with the reverse narrative.

Only two weeks after sitting in position at 5-2 for a first-round bye in the Class B North playoffs, Cony is done for the season, the result of a two-game losing streak that included a loss to Gardiner in the regular-season finale and a loss to a one-win Brunswick team at Alumni Field in Friday’s quarterfinal.

“It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” coach B.L. Lippert said. “Last offseason, I think we felt really good about where we were. … This year, maybe the opposite feeling. We feel like we came up short of our goals, once we saw how good this team was going to be at the midway point of the season. We just didn’t finish well.”

Indeed, Cony appeared poised for a playoff run after an impressive win at Messalonskee, its fifth straight. But the Rams relied on top-end talent more than depth — quarterback Anthony Sousa played full-time at safety, for instance, and made what Lippert estimated to be 100 tackles — and their coach said fatigue left its mark against the Dragons as Brunswick scored 24 unanswered points.

“We started a ton of guys both ways, and that’s never ideal,” Lippert said. “But in the playoffs, it’s even more physical, more demanding. And I think we kind of wore down a little bit in the second half, and the fourth quarter in particular. … It seems like we end up in that boat every year, and maybe that’s a function of our coaching staff trusting those core kids (too much, and) maybe we need to develop more depth.”

What didn’t hurt the Rams, Lippert said, was preparation. Brunswick benefited from some aggressive plays, most notably a fake punt that went for a touchdown, and Lippert said Cony was prepared for the Dragons to get creative.

“We were prepared for it, as well as you could be,” he said. “Both times they were lined up to punt, we had our regular defense in there, and they just kind of found a crease. … We knew they’d pull out all the stops.”

Lippert didn’t give excuses. Brunswick was the better team Friday night, he said, and the Rams had to deal with the pain of a season ended early.

“When you lose a game like we did Friday night, it hurts, because you spend so much time with these kids,” he said. “It’s painful to see Anthony Sousa crying after the game. I don’t have any words to make him feel any better.”

• • •

Team defense came through in one tight spot after another for Gardiner in its 13-8 C South quarterfinal win over Morse on Friday night.

Seemingly each of the 11 players on the field had their own signature moment as Gardiner’s defense made stop after stop while waiting for its offense to break through, forcing four turnovers on downs, three in Tigers territory.

On one drive, Dylan Spencer had a run stuff for a loss of 4 yards and Austin Weymouth and Blaise Tripp teamed to tackle a Shipbuilders runner for a loss of 1 en route to a fourth down stop at the Tigers’ 24-yard line. On another, Roy Appleby held Morse’s Austin Baltazar to 2 yards on second-and-4. Kolton Brochu notched a key pass break-up, then a crushing hit on a fake punt run. Garrett Maheux made a stop for a 3-yard loss with Morse driving for the lead. Dimitri Paradis clinched the win with an interception.

All part of the plan, coach Joe White said.

“The premise of that defense is just to create chaos, and you never really know where it’s coming from,” he said. “One play it could be Appleby, next play Spencer. Next play Foye, next play Brochu comes in and lays a big hit. It can be frustrating for an offense, and that’s what it’s designed to do.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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