There’s not a high school football program in Maine that has had more coaching consistency than Winslow High School. Since 1958, the Black Raiders have had three head coaches, and some assistant coaches have spent years mentoring Winslow’s football players.
This fall, there will be some new, albeit familiar faces, on the Winslow sidelines, and one Black Raider mainstay will be gone.
Mike Siviski, head coach since 1985, is still there, but longtime defensive coordinator Jim Poulin retired after 38 seasons coaching at his high school alma mater.
“Jimmy and I go back forever. Jimmy has been a great motivator. We’re sorry to lose him. I knew it was coming, all this time,” Siviski said.
“He’s been invaluable to us. Jimmy bleeds black and orange.”
Since 1995, Poulin has battled multiple sclerosis. The disease has progressed to the point where he’s no longer comfortable on the sidelines. Over the past decade, Poulin has coached from a golf cart.
“It’s time. For the longest time, it’s been a year-to-year basis,” Poulin said. “In talking with my wife, Diane, the best thing is to get done now.”
During the 2007 season, Poulin thought that would be his last season coaching. But as the season progressed, he began to feel better, and Poulin stayed on five more years. Now, Poulin said, the heat of the August preseason saps his energy, and he has trouble recovering from being outside on the cold days that come as the season winds down.
“I don’t do well in the extremes… There’s a battle between my mind and my heart,” Poulin, who also has coached boys and girls basketball at Winslow, said. “My mind says to me it’s time, but my heart is really going to miss it.”
The coaching continuity is one of the reasons Winslow has been one of the most successful football programs in the state. Wally LaFountain became Winslow’s head coach in 1958 and turned the program over to Harold Violette in 1969. Violette stepped down after the 1984 season, and Siviski has been head coach since. LaFountain and Violette have stayed involved with the program off and on over the years.
“I played for Wally and coached with Harold,” Poulin said. “I’ve been with Mike since ’85.”
Poulin’s retirement is not the only change to a coaching staff that prides itself on its stability. Assistant coach Andy Cyr will not be back this season, and two additions, Wes Littlefield and Ken Nadeau, join Siviski’s staff. Both Littlefield and Nadeau are Winslow High graduates.
Littlefield was head coach at Messalonskee High School for more than nine seasons. He resigned last September one day after an alleged incident with a player at practice. Littlefield was charged with assault by Oakland police, but Kennebec County district attorney Alan Kelley decided not to prosecute Littlefield, citing a lack of evidence.
Littlefield, who coached at Winslow for 11 years before moving on to Messalonskee, will work with running backs and defensive ends, he said. Littlefield said he’s disappointed to not be working alongside Poulin, who was one of his high school coaches.
“It’s a sad day in Winslow, really. Coach Poulin is obviously an icon over there. It’s a big loss in the football family,” Littlefield said. “It was very intense and demanding, but very rewarding. You wanted to play hard for him.”
“(Littlefield’s) going to be great with and for our kids,” Poulin said.
Siviski said Poulin’s likely replacement as defensive coordinator is Mike Marston, who joined the Winslow coaching staff last season after eight years as head coach at Skowhegan Area High School. It’s not just football knowledge Marston and Littlefield, both former head coaches, bring to the Black Raiders, it’s an ability to pass that knowledge on to the players, Siviski said.
“It’s not necessarily Xs and Os,” Siviski said. “It’s how you teach things.”
In the spring, when Poulin told the team about his decision, he also told the team he won’t be a stranger.
“I said, ‘I will not miss any of your games.'” Poulin said.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242