PORTLAND — Lisbon knew it would have its hands full when it faced Bucksport in the Class D state championship Saturday.

The Greyhounds knew all about the Golden Bucks’ size and physicality, but they neutralized both with huge defensive plays and timely offensive explosions to claim the Class D state title with a 28-8 victory at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

“Everything that everyone said about their size was absolutely correct,” third-year Lisbon coach Chris Kates said. “They had some real maulers on that line, and those kids will pound you for a whole game. They did a good job, we were just able to make some plays at some opportune times.”

The state title is the Greyhounds’ first since they won back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006.

Bucksport received the opening kickoff, but three plays into the game’s opening drive, quarterback Brady Findlay threw his first interception of the game to Lisbon’s Riley Quatrano, who ended up with a pair of picks Saturday. 

“On the first interception I didn’t even know what I was doing,” Quatrano said. “I didn’t even hear the defensive coverage. When in doubt, I just backpedal and read the quarterback. We actually read in an article that they had no interceptions all year, so it was pretty cool to pick them off twice.”

Lisbon, which also includes players from Saint Dominic Academy, quickly turned the early opportunity into points. 

Guided down the field by senior quarterback Seth Leeman, who was responsible for 37 of the possession’s 55 yards, finished the eight-play drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Justin Le for a quick 7-0 lead.

Bucksport then orchestrated a 17-play drive that drained more than nine minutes off the clock. On fourth down, though, the Golden Bucks’ pass play was short of the first down and they turned the ball over on downs.

Lisbon quarterback Seth Leeman shows the Greyhounds crowd the gold ball after Lisbon beat Bucksport for the Maine Class D state championship on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The Bucks quickly got the football back and went on another long drive, this one longer than five minutes. Running back Jaxon Gross was the workhorse on both drives, rushing the ball 19 times over the two drives including all 10 plays of the second drive, which he ended with a one-yard touchdown to put Bucksport up 8-7 late in the second quarter. 

Lisbon, in contrast to Bucksport’s long, plodding drives, answered quickly. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Leeman ran in a 55-yard touchdown to give the lead back to the Greyhounds.

“It’s usually a play that breaks out a lot of the time, and once I saw a nice kick-out block from our receiver, Robbie (Dick), I knew I had to just outrun them in a foot race,” Leeman said.

Leeman finished with 165 total yards and one running and one passing touchdown. 

At halftime, with a 14-8 lead, Lisbon made changes to its defensive schemes in an effort to penetrate the Bucksport backfield. 

“We switched the gaps up a little bit, but for the most part we just emphasized staying low and trying to beat them with our speed,” Kates said. “The first half we weren’t necessarily hitting the gaps fast enough and they were able to get some easy blocks. We kind of coached them up again and reminded them what their reads were and they responded pretty well.”

Daytona McIver of Lisbon gains yards during Saturday’s game against Bucksport. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Lisbon linebacker Colin Houle knew that the Greyhounds would have to some long drives to endure but he never wavered and made a sack and multiple plays made in the Bucksport backfield.

“Sticking to the game plan because I trust in what we were doing, no matter what, 100 percent, and that definitely shows on those long drives,” Houle said. “Just to get in the backfield and make a great play for your team, it really is a motor for that defense — make a great play and inspire others to make great plays, too.”

Leeman opened the second half by throwing with an interception to Bucksport’s Jacob Guty, but five plays later Quatrano grabbed his second interception to give the ball right back to the Greyhounds.

Quatrano has rewarded the Lisbon coaches for giving him a more prominent role recently.

“He’s always really been a big-time player …” Kates said of Quatrano. “The past couple of weeks we liked the matchups he had, so we started to feature him a little bit more.”

Lisbon, again, took advantage of the free possession, and capped off a eight-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Le, his second score of the game. 

Justin Le of Lisbon turns into the end zone for the Greyhounds’ first touchdown in Portland on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“I didn’t expect (two touchdowns), honestly,” Le said. “The first one I was so surprised. Seth made a great throw and it was perfect. It all came together and the line pass blocked like they were supposed to — same as when I ran it in, they blocked perfectly. I couldn’t ask for a better line than that.”

That score put Lisbon up 21-8 with two minutes left in the third quarter.

Bucksport kept giving the ball Gross, who finished the game with 189 rushing yards on 34 attempts. 

Lisbon forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to get the ball back early in the fourth, and after the Greyhounds made another defensive stop near the end of the quarter, Daytona McIver raced through a hole and scored on a 53-yard touchdown run to seal the game. 

After a rocky start to the season, Kates believes the Lisbon seniors had had enough. 

“I just think these kids finally said, ‘We don’t want this to be how our season ends,’” Kates said. “They started playing better and really started to play inspired football and weren’t being selfish.”

Lisbon head coach Chris Kates runs away from getting water dumped over his head after the Greyhounds won the Maine Class D state championship in Portland on Saturday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

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