Lisbon’s Seth Leeman runs for a touchdown against Winthrop during the Class D South championship game Friday in Lewiston. (Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal)

LISBON — When Seth Leeman was a fourth-grader playing football in the Lisbon Recreation Department league, a coach told him that he was a quarterback.

From that moment on, Leeman studied the game, learned the many facets that comes with being “the guy” calling out the signals as he dreamed of one day being “the guy” leading the Lisbon Greyhounds on the grass of Thompson Field.

It took a bit of time, but Leeman is set to lead the Greyhounds into battle on Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland in the State Class D title game against Bucksport.

Leeman’s path to Lisbon/St. Dom’s starting quarterback wavered through a long and winding path. As a sophomore and junior, he was the backup to starter Lucas Francis. However, he didn’t stand on the sidelines, instead becoming a solid wide receiver and defensive cornerback.

“I’ve always had a heart for the game,” said the son of Michelle and Dan and younger brother of Riley, who graduated in 2018. “When I first started playing football in the third grade, I was learning a lot of different positions. I think I played defensive end.”

The past two seasons didn’t go the way Leeman and his Greyhounds had hoped. In 2017, Lisbon/St. Dom’s fell to Winthrop/Monmouth in the quarterfinals, then last season lost to rival Oak Hill on a muddy Thompson Field. Leeman watched as his good friend Francis sat in the mud after a lost fumble in overtime allowed the Raiders to escape with a 6-0 win.

“It was devastating, seeing Lucas sitting in the mud,” said Leeman of the loss. “He gave everything to this program, and for it to end that way was difficult.”

Francis graduated, and Leeman took the reigns. He participated with the Greyhounds in a 7-on-7 football league during the summer, and he came into the 2019 season as the starting quarterback for the Greyhounds. It seemed like the dream was finally going to become a reality.

“I felt like coming into the season that I was comfortable with the position,” said Leeman.

Lisbon quarterback Seth Leeman drops back to pass during the Class D South regional championship game Friday in Lewiston. The Greyhounds won, 25-15, and face Bucksport in Saturday’s State Class D Championship game in Portland. (Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal)

He stepped onto Thompson Field in the opener against Fryeburg Academy ready to go. Early in the opening quarter, the senior was injured. The result was a concussion, forcing Leeman to miss some time, with Nick Ferrence stepping into the quarterback role.

“I was frustrated,” said Leeman of the injury that kept him out of his team’s second game — a 44-6 rout of Madison/Carrabec at home. “I was really hoping that my season didn’t end there. I was drained.”

“Any time a kid is not on the field because of an injury, it is frustrating,” said Lisbon/St. Dom’s coach Chris Kates. “I think he understood that it was a long season, and that he was going to have the chance to return and build his confidence.”

Tough loss

The injury and missing some time were not the worst things that have occurred in the 17-year-old’s life. Far from it!

In 2014, Leeman lost one of his best friends, Mitchell Tuplin, who was killed when the ATV he was driving in rolled over. Tuplin might have been a teammate of Leeman on the gridiron, and he remembers his friend every time he steps onto the field.

“It would have meant everything for me to share this with him,” said Leeman. “I feel like we have been on this journey together. He is right there with us.”

Leeman’s injury was short-term. He returned in Week 3, starting out only on offense, mostly handing the ball to his running backs. In a close game with Mountain Valley, Kates felt it was time to get his senior into the game on the defensive side of the ball. He played safety in the second half in what turned out to be a hard-fought 12-6 win over the Falcons.

“I hadn’t played safety before, so that was new,” Leeman remembered. “I was definitely not familiar, but we were able to get the win.”

Leeman’s 5-yard touchdown run broke a 21-21 deadlock with previously-unbeaten Spruce Mountain in Week 5 — a key 35-21 Greyhound victory.

Then came a visit to York. Facing a Class C powerhouse, Lisbon stuck with the Wildcats, eventually falling, 42-33, and giving the Greyhounds a 3-3 record.

Despite the loss, Leeman showed he could throw the ball effectively, tossing a pair of touchdowns as receivers Robbie Dick and Riley Quatrano used their speed to find open areas in the York defense.

“Seth is a good passer, and he has some good games throwing the ball,” said Kates. “Most of the year, we featured a running game, and Seth has been a big part of that as well. Both offensively and defensively, Seth has been a big part of this team’s success this year. Anything Seth gives us in the passing game is a bonus. He has the ability to throw the ball, and he has shown the ability to produce both with his arm and his legs.”

“York had beaten Wells, so we knew they were a good team,” said Leeman. “We felt after that game that we could play with anybody.”

After an easy win over Camden Hills, Lisbon faced rival Oak Hill in the regular-season finale in Wales. With both teams sitting with 4-3 records, the No. 2 seed and a quarterfinal bye was on the line. Leeman led a fourth-quarter comeback, finishing off the 16-13 win with his second 2-point conversion.

As fate would have it, Oak Hill came to Thompson Field for the semifinals after rolling past Madison/Carrabec. This time, Leeman’s legs did the talking, with the senior rushing for 188 yards for three touchdowns in Lisbon’s 48-20 win.

“It was a big win for us, to know that we had put Oak Hill behind us,” Leeman said.

Next came the biggest challenge for the Greyhounds to date. Winthrop/Monmouth/Hall-Dale, the No. 1 seed, was the clear favorite in the Class D South Regional Final at Lewiston High School last Friday night, especially after handing the Greyhounds a 49-14 shellacking on Sept. 28.

On Lisbon’s first possession, the Ramblers lined up close to the line of scrimmage, looking to take away the Greyhounds’ strength — the running game.

What they found out was that Lisbon was able to throw the ball as well. Leeman threw for 120 yards, including a third-quarter touchdown heave to Quatrano that gave the Greyhounds a 14-7 lead.

Despite controlling the play, Lisbon found itself down 15-14 in the fourth quarter after the Ramblers’ Logan Baird scored, followed by the 2-point conversion.

Lisbon didn’t panic, getting a big kickoff return from Quatrano. After converting a first down, Cam Bourget scored the go-ahead touchdown, with Leeman tacking on the 2-point run for a 22-15 Greyhound lead.

“That’s the best ball I’ve ever seen him throw,” Quatrano said of Leeman’s 29-yard TD pass. “He comes up in the clutch. That’s the best throwing game I’ve ever seen him have.”

“We caught them off-guard,” said Leeman of his team’s passing success. “They were geared up to stop our run, so we had to try something else. It worked out.”

A late field goal by Levi Levesque finished off the Ramblers, sending the Greyhounds to their first state title game since 2016.

Now comes undefeated Bucksport, a Golden Bucks squad built for the run. Leeman feels his team will need to do a lot of things right on Saturday if the Greyhounds want to bring home their first Gold Ball since 2006.

“I think we need to beat them with speed,” said Leeman, whose Greyhounds face the Golden Bucks at 2:30 p.m. “They have a lot of physical kids, but I think out speed gives us an edge. We will need to fill the gaps on defense because we know their runners like to cut back and break tackles.”

As is the norm in Lisbon, the Greyhounds will be the under-sized squad come Saturday.

“That is what Lisbon is all about. We haven’t had big, bulky guys throughout the history of the program,” Leeman said. “But we have guys with big hearts, and I will guarantee you that we will play at full speed every single play on Saturday.”

 

 

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