WINSLOW — On Saturday afternoon, after its convincing 49-18 win in the Eastern Class C championship game, the Winslow High School football team went through the postgame handshake with its rivals from Waterville. Then, rather than turn toward midfield and wait for the postgame awards presentation, the Black Raiders ran, en masse, toward their sideline, then past their sideline, to share the victory with the man sitting there, like he has for every Winslow home game this season.
Any Winslow football achievement, be it a regular-season win in September or a regional championship win in November, must be shared with Jim Poulin. Although Poulin retired from his position as Winslow’s defensive coordinator this summer, he’s still as much a part of the Black Raiders as anybody.
Barely settled into his status as coach emeritus, Poulin still commands respect from his former players, whether they played for him last season or two decades ago.
“He’s affected every single one of these players,” senior fullback Zach Guptill said. “He means a lot to every single one of us and we just wanted him to be a part of this.”
On Saturday, Poulin scoffed at the idea that he’s the most popular guy in town.
“I’m not the most popular guy in my house, and I’m the only guy in my house,” he said.
Poulin, a Winslow native (Gerry Poulin Field is named after his father), coached at his high school alma mater for 38 years. Poulin coached the last 17 years while fighting multiple sclerosis. The disease attacks the nervous system, damaging and destroying nerve fiber, making the simplest tasks difficult or close to impossible.
Over the last decade of his career, Poulin used a golf cart to get around Black Raider practices and games. In recent seasons, the extremes of the football season began to get to him. The sticky heat of August’s preseason practices would leave Poulin with no energy. The cold days in late October and November would numb Poulin for days.
His heart said continue coaching, but Poulin’s brain and body said no. Nobody questioned his decision. With all Poulin had given to the team, how could you?
“I learned so much from him. We all have. The problems he goes through every single day, he was still out there for so many years,” senior defensive lineman Aaron Lint said. “He’s still here for every home game. He means the world to us.”
“He inspires me,” Guptill said. “He’s such a strong person.”
As he chatted with current Winslow players and alumni, Poulin was humbled by the respect he received.
“To say it lifts my spirits is an understatement,” Poulin said. “You try, when you’re coaching, to build a bond with your players. You hope you develop a relationship for life.”
Former players stopped by to say hello and thank you. Poulin shared a hug with current senior Rickey Crayton. He had a fist bump for sophomore Nat Beckwith. Winslow head coach Mike Siviski, who coached with Poulin for decades, came over to talk football.
“Did you see that first drive?” Siviski asked. “The kids executed perfectly.”
Poulin nodded. He saw. When they players joined him after the game, he made sure to compliment some on individual strong plays.
“Football is a tough sport. It unites or divides you. Regardless of the result of the game, we’re all in this together,” Poulin said.
The Black Raiders will play Leavitt of Turner in the Class C state championship game next Saturday at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. Poulin will be there.
“You couldn’t keep me away,” he said.
Poulin is still an important part of Winslow football. His name is no longer on the program, but Poulin is still a coach to the Black Raiders. Lint knew exactly what Poulin means to the team.
“Everything,” Lint said.