LISBON — It is high school football’s universal sign of temporary surrender.
The marker between the two measuring stakes is flipped to ’4.’ Offensive playmakers trot dejectedly off the field and detach chin straps. Except for one, who drops back and punts the ball away.
Unless we’re talking about Lisbon and junior Quincy Thompson, in which case anyone wearing an opposite-colored jersey is advised to keep his feet moving and his head on a swivel.
Would-be punts have served as microcosm of Lisbon’s season. Thompson’s trickery, boldness and speed have helped rescue the Greyhounds from a sputtering start and into the thick of a loaded Western Class C playoff race.
“On punts, I’ll see a lane and I’ll kick it, pass, run,” Thompson said.
And run. And run again. And run some more.
Chief among the four touchdowns Thompson scored in a midseason win at Yarmouth was his 64-yard scamper after selling a fake punt.
The Clippers couldn’t complain that they hadn’t seen it on film, either.
“We don’t keep stats for punting as a rule, but now I wish we’d kept them from the beginning,” Lisbon coach Dick Mynahan said. “I do know that we fake-punted six times in a row over two games, and it led to five touchdowns. And Quincy was the one who carried the ball all five times.”
Thompson previously gambled three times at home against Oak Hill, giving Lisbon life in an eventual 21-14 loss.
Those first downs aren’t as easy to find in the box score as fumble recoveries or interceptions, but they’ve meant just as much to the Greyhounds.
“I kind of count that as a turnover,” Mynahan said. “Instead of turning the ball over to the other team, you’re getting it back. We feel confident in that.”
Much as a running back professes to get nowhere without his offensive line, the 5-foot-7, 180-pound Thompson typically has an escort from the downfield blocking combination of Kyle Bourget and Mason Haley.
“I look at that first down (marker), and if there’s a hole and I think I can get there, I’ll get there,” Thompson said. “We have good guys over there. I just follow them.”
Trust between athlete and coach is also essential to Thompson’s continued fourth-down success.
Rarely does a high school punt unfold near midfield without someone on the opposite sideline hollering, “Watch the fake!” Knowing the long odds, most teams don’t chance it more than once or twice per season.
“He pretty much has a green light back there. He’s not going to always do it, but when he thinks it’s there, he’s going to do it,” Mynahan said. “It’s big for us, because a lot of teams have to play us a lot more honestly and not set up for those long returns. If he gets caught, it’s OK. I don’t know if he’s been caught. Maybe once at the most.”
Thompson’s contributions don’t end with the punting game.
His 22-carry, 257-yard, 4-touchdown night at Yarmouth was tops in a series of terrific performances.
He amassed 96 rushing yards, returned a kick 55 yards and picked off a pass in the end zone to help Lisbon stave off Freeport.
At Winthrop, Thompson’s 113 yards and 3 touchdowns highlighted the Greyhounds’ initial win after an 0-2 start.
Even in a losing cause against Oak Hill, Thompson’s grab of a Hail Mary inside the 10-yard line threatened to tie the game at the end of regulation.
“I just play wherever Coach Mynahan puts me and wherever we need me,” Thompson said. “I like running back, but I also like running routes and catching the ball.”
He even played quarterback out of the wildcat formation as a sophomore — another form of direct-snap deception that October and potentially November opponents would do well to keep in the back of their minds.
“Actually, in practice he takes every other snap at quarterback. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays half the game Saturday (home against Winslow) at quarterback,” Mynahan said. “We always try to have somebody available if we lose somebody. We’ve got him in. We just haven’t had to use him, thank God, yet.”
Mynahan’s coaching counterparts surely echo that thankfulness.