The mill town of Lisbon Falls, my hometown, informs much of what I write and care about. It is there that my working class lens through which I view much of my world was formed and nurtured. Many of us are products of where we were born, or spent important periods of our development, especially if you spent most of your formative years in one place. For good or bad, Lisbon High School had a lot to do with the person I am today. I mean, if it was good enough for Stephen King for god sake, then it was good enough for me! If you’ve read When Towns Had Teams, the threads of town team baseball, small town life and my alma mater intertwine.
I had the good fortune of being at Fitzpatrick Stadium, in Portland, for the Class C state championship football game on Saturday night. I went out for dinner and drinks with my former high school and town team battery mate, Mike Sawyer, of whom you read about at the end of my book. Mike is the one high school mate that I’ve kept in touch with over the years. Looking back, it’s interesting, as he and I weren’t terribly close in school, other than being teammates in baseball and basketball. But our post-high school paths have crossed due to baseball and I’ve found Mike on the receiving end of my pitches for over 20 years, with numerous breaks in between. I also found out the Mike was an extra in the romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon, Fever Pitch. He told me he spent a week this summer, at Fenway Park, waiting around from 5pm, until 5am, for his brief flirtation as a celluloid hero. His bit part was minor; a cameo during Barrymore’s run across the field; he also is seen briefly in a Yankee uniform (damn him to hell!). I’ll have to re-watch the flick to catch his brief appearances, now that I know about them.
The football game, played on a chilly night in proximity to Casco Bay, was a classic. Both Lisbon and their opponent, Foxcroft Academy, had a history coming into the game. It was Foxcroft Academy who derailed Lisbon’s quest for their 10th state football title two years ago. Both of these teams had hooked up in the late November, 1997 tilt that Lisbon won on the legendary 80 yard touchdown drive, on a frozen field, with the clock winding down, known ever since as just, “the drive”. Saturday night will go down in Lisbon football folklore in the same breath as that game.
With two evenly matched teams with varying styles going at one another for four quarters, this was entertaining football. Foxcroft, with their wide open, run and shoot-style offense and stellar passing attack; Lisbon with their in-your-face, run you over style of football, providing an obvious contrast.
With Lisbon’s defense being unscored on for 5 consecutive weeks and Foxcroft’s penchant for putting points on the scoreboard, it was a clash of the titans type of affair. While Foxcroft was able to reel off some big plays, pushing Lisbon’s backs to the wall much of the first half, the only scoring for Foxcroft’s Ponies was an 87 yard punt return just before the half. This allowed Foxcroft to go to the locker room with a 7-6 lead.
Lisbon answered early in the third by uncharacteristically putting the ball in the air. A 31-yard scoring strike and a failed conversion had the Greyhounds up, 12-7. Both teams were unable to mount much of a threat after that, until Foxcroft’s final possession of the game and their season.
With the clock winding down on the 2005 season, the Ponies drove the length of the field, completing clutch passes on third down several times. With less than a minute left, it appeared that the Ponies would find the end zone, with insufficient time left for the run-oriented Greyhounds to counter. With a roughing the passer call on fourth down putting Foxcroft, first and goal from the 2-yard line, things didn’t look real hopeful for the Lisbon faithful. However, longtime coach, Dick Mynahan, called a time-out and obviously had something to say to his defense. The first play from scrimmage saw a run with no gain. The next play in the series saw the Foxcroft running back stuffed for a two-yard loss. A running play to the left saw the Ponies regain their original spot and it all came down to the last play. The elusive QB for the ponies, a southpaw, launched a pass attempt towards the far sideline of the endzone and it was batted away by the Greyhound defender and bedlam broke out on the Lisbon side of the stadium. One of the most improbable finishes had allowed the prototypical, hard-nosed Lisbon High team, another state football title.
Being there, Saturday night was special. From the people I ran into, some, former high school teammates that I hadn’t seen for 20-odd years, to the improbable and dramatic finish, it was a memorable evening. Another event in a line of many that cements my affection and affinity for my former hometown of Lisbon Falls, and another wild football ending, which will now be known as “the stand”.