Football: Lisbon reaches Class D showdown with defending champ Foxcroft

Nov. 17—Lisbon already showed once that it knows how to beat Foxcroft Academy, but can the Greyhounds do it again, in the biggest game of the season?

The Ponies have only lost once in the past two seasons — a 14-13 loss to Lisbon on Sept. 23. The defending Class D state champions have won seven straight games since, and they prepare for a second straight state final with a chance at redemption against the Greyhounds on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Cameron Stadium in Bangor.

Championship foes

Saturday will be the fifth matchup of Lisbon and Foxcroft in a state final. They met in five Class C title games between 1997 and 2006, with the Greyhounds winning three of those. Here are the score of the four previous championship showdowns.

— 1997: Lisbon 19, Foxcroft 14

— 2003: Foxcroft 26, Lisbon 20

— 2005: Lisbon 12, Foxcroft 7

— 2006: Lisbon 30, Foxcroft 14

"That game was the blueprint of how to beat us, and Lisbon executed it to a T," Foxcroft (9-1) coach Danny White said. "They were able to run the clock, keep the ball away from us, execute short yardage when they needed to. And they did obviously enough on defense when we did have the ball. They turned us over three times. That was a big, huge key in the game. So we've learned a lot, we've drawn a lot of parallels from that game into our growth, and we're ready to go try to avenge that loss."

Lisbon (7-3) coach Chris Kates said his team has also undergone some growth since that game, going unbeaten against Class D competition, including a 28-21 win over Freeport in the semifinals that avenged a season-opening loss.

"We've been able to achieve a greater level of consistency through refining our technique and the players gaining confidence in the scheme," Kates said. "Our team is very unselfish and has benefited from players putting their egos aside and doing everything they can to benefit the team."

As White noted, the Greyhounds feature a balanced, run-heavy attack on offense. Lisbon didn't attempt a pass in its semifinal victory, but the Greyhounds do spread the ball around to different runners, including Colby Levasseur, Josh Carter and Jack Ramich. Quarterback Jimmy Fitzsimmons also gets into the mix when he keeps the ball and runs it — he scored two of Lisbon's TDs against Freeport in the semifinals.

"They're big and strong and they do a great job with what they do, and it frustrates you as a defense," White said. "And they're perfectly content getting 3 and 4 yards a carry and keeping the ball away from you."

White called Lisbon's grind-it-out offense its best defense.

In the first meeting this season, the Greyhounds ran 62 plays to the Ponies' 26. Foxcroft had six possessions in the game, and three of them ended in turnovers.

"A key for us is certainly being able to score early in the game, so that they have to open up their offense and take a few more chances," White said.

The Ponies certainly have the offense to jump ahead early (46.5 points per game), and Kates said, "they have such an explosive team that it will be hard to repeat that (13-point defensive) effort."

Kates added that Foxcroft has playmakers at all positions on offense, and a strong line to create time and space. Leading the Ponies' charge is Caden Crocker, whom White called one of the top players in the state, regardless of class. Crocker left the first meeting against Lisbon due to an injury midway through the second quarter, which White said was a significant factor in the loss.

Foxcroft also features quarterback Wyatt Rayfield, who has thrown for more than 1,300 yards and 26 touchdowns, and Jadon Richard, another slot back who can keep defenses honest. Up front, the Ponies returned four of the five starters on the offensive line from last year's title team.

Defense, meanwhile, has become a strength for the Ponies, who haven't allowed a point in the playoffs.

Foxcroft has a healthy amount of respect for the Greyhounds, and that's reciprocated on the Lisbon side. The two most recent Class D state champions (Lisbon won in 2019 before the 2020 season was canceled) won't be overlooking each other Saturday.

"Every game is different, and once the ball is kicked on Saturday, it's just another football game," White said. "Having played and experienced the game in Bangor at Cameron Stadium, for us, may be the only parallel we could draw. But other than that, the moment isn't going to be too big for either team, so it's just going to come down to execution."