LISBON RECEIVER Tyrese Joseph (3) pulls away from an Oak Hill defender after hauling in a reception during the Class D South semifinals last Saturday. Joseph and the Greyhounds visit Winthrop/Monmouth on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

LISBON RECEIVER Tyrese Joseph (3) pulls away from an Oak Hill defender after hauling in a reception during the Class D South semifinals last Saturday. Joseph and the Greyhounds visit Winthrop/Monmouth on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

LISBON

Adding in a new wrinkle.

For an old-fashioned, hard-nosed high school football team, the very thought of introducing something new can be daunting and a bit scary.

Don’t tell that to Lisbon and longtime head coach Dick Mynahan.

Last Saturday against rival Oak Hill in the Class D South semifinals on Thompson Field, the Greyhounds led the Raiders, 16-3, at the half.

To sum up the first 24 minutes, Lisbon had things going, using the ground and pound attack of running back Noah Francis and the slash and gash of quarterback Tyler Halls and running back Lucas Francis.

To say the least, the Raiders were on their heels, seeing their three-year grasp of the State Class D title slipping away.

What was working was the running of senior Noah Francis. He used his big frame to pick up a key 23- yard gain, turning the field Lisbon’s way. He had 56 yards in the first half.

“Noah has been our team leader, runs the ball, getting two- or three-years at a time, and when he breaks a tackle, he always gets another four-or-five-more years,” said Mynahan. “On Saturday when he broke a tackle and got an extra 20 yards, I thought that was a turning point. We weren’t really excited before that, but we got excited after.”

“We started getting that good drive and we came together,” said Noah Francis. “We just ran the ball right at them. I felt the (23- yard) run changed the momentum. We realized then that it was going to be hard to stop us.”

Why change?

Betting odds — Lisbon comes in the second half and does the same types of things — ground and pound, slash and gash, eat up the clock and finally knock off troublesome Oak Hill.

Instead, the Greyhounds showed a completely different look. Suddenly, Lucas Francis, a sophomore and the likely Lisbon quarterback next season, was lined up behind the center, with Halls either starting to the left or right and Noah Francis setting the edge. Lucas Francis and Halls took turns finding openings in the Oak Hill defense, and Lucas Francis scored on a short run for a 24-3 lead.

If the Greyhounds thought the Raiders were shaken up a bit, they were right. It became even more confusing for the visitors on Lisbon’s next drive. Now, Lucas Francis began throwing the ball, looking for the speedy Halls.

“We had an idea of dropping that because it gave Tyler a chance to do what he does best, play wide receiver,” said Mynahan. “Anyone that saw that game saw Tyler having a lot of fun. He likes being a receiver and he is good at it. With the 1-2 punch of Tyler and Lucas each running the ball, we picked up good yardage each time.”

Oak Hill coach Stacen Doucette, a former Lisbon assistant who knows all too well the little wrinkles that Mynahan tends to put into his offense as the season progresses, said his Raiders practiced to face Halls as a receiver. But, “Lisbon executed it well.”

“ You can practice it, and we practice things that teams might do. Then you get into the game and the speed you can’t duplicate it in practice. It was hard for Oak Hill to defend someone who runs as fast as Tyler,” said Mynahan.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came on a long third down play. From the Oak Hill 39-yard line, Lucas Francis lofted a pass that was surely overthrown. Hey, it was only his fourth varsity pass, so give the kid a break.

Wait! Instead Halls sprinted along the Lisbon sideline, ran under the pass and hauled it in for a 39-yard TD pass and a 30-3 lead.

“We know that Lucas can throw,” said Halls. “For me, wide receiver is my position and where I want to play in college. We were looking for results and it worked. We have been working on that pass for weeks. It was a great feeling. I was glad that it worked. I have never had that feeling in my high school career. When I scored that touchdown, I heard the silence from their crowd. That was a great feeling.”

“We were excited to try something new,” said Lucas Francis, who completed 3-of- 4 passes in that third quarter. “We had something going and knew that we had to stick with it. I didn’t expect to throw the ball, but Tyler is a good receiver, so why not? We took a shot down field. I wanted to get the ball out there because Tyler is so fast. It felt good off of my arm. It turned out to be a good pass.”

“The little wrinkles are always important,” said Mynahan. “We had been working on that offense for about three-and-a-half weeks, and what it does is generate a lot of interest in practice. The same old plays, power, power, power, the kids get sick of that. Then we put those types of plays in there, just fooling around, and we liked the way they looked and we kept them.”

“We were hoping to surprise them and we did that,” said Noah Francis. “We were able to run the ball and throw the ball on them. Lucas brings a lot of high tempo running and has always been an athlete. He has blown up as a sophomore like I did. He will take on that leadership role next year.”

Lisbon finally put Oak Hill in its rearview mirror with the 42-9 victory.

Now comes the next challenge — at top-seeded Winthrop/Monmouth on Saturday (12:30 p.m.) in the Class D South regional final.

In the opening game of the 2016 season, the Ramblers rolled onto Thompson Field and cruised to a dominating 31-12 win over the Greyhounds.

In that first game, Lisbon’s offensive game plan was rather vanilla. On the other side, Winthrop/Monmouth moved the ball well throughout the game.

“We had the same amount of time that they did, and Winthrop did a nice job coming up with their offense that day,” said Mynahan. “We had worked our offense in all summer in 7-on-7. We didn’t have any excuses that game. They beat us because they were a better team.”

Heading into Saturday’s clash, Mynahan feels his team has improved every week.

“We are hoping that we have gotten better. We have worked every week to get better, and we will see on Saturday if we have indeed gotten better,” said Mynahan, coaching in his 30th season. “A lot has to happen. Defensively, we need to be more involved in what we do. We didn’t pursue well that first time. Since then, we have worked on staying home. Second, our angle of pursuit needs to improve. We need to hold on a little bit better. We missed a lot of tackles in that first game.”

“Our defense needs to be a lot better to be honest,” said Halls. “The defensive backs have been better. We need to stop the pass. Our offense will get the job done on Saturday.”

As Mynahan ran his team through practice on a balmy Tuesday afternoon, he reflected on how far his team has come this season.

“This has been one of my favorite teams,” said the coach. “It is not often that you haven’t lost one kid to detention. Every Monday and Tuesday are days that we have the most kids missing typically, something that really ruins your team. We haven’t had anyone miss Monday and Tuesday this season. Mondays, we run pretty hard for 45-50 minutes, and one would think those are the practices they miss. They have come out and put in the time. They have worked hard.”

As for what to expect on Saturday …

“We know that Lucas and Noah are unstoppable, and when you have two amazing backs like that, we can run whatever we want,” said Halls. “Plus, we run behind the best line in the conference. The line has come together. We were very inexperienced there in the beginning of the year. But, now they are playing well as a unit.

“We will go in with a game plan, then see how it is working and adjust. We know that we can come at a team several different ways now. We will certainly find out on Saturday.”


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