SKOWHEGAN — Mike Nichols played center field for the Madison Area High School baseball team and tight end for the football team. He had a good job installing fiber optic cable in New Hampshire. Then he slipped.

He slipped into painkillers after undergoing two surgeries, but he didn’t stop there. When the prescriptions ran out, Nichols turned to heroin. Addiction followed, as did property crimes to feed his habit.

On Monday, Nichols, 28, of Madison, was sentenced to serve eight months of a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in Somerset County Superior Court to five counts of felony burglary and seven counts of misdemeanor theft.

Justice Robert Mullen said he would postpone Nichols’ prison term until Feb. 7 so Nichols can finish treatment at a methadone clinic in Waterville. “We want you to finish that program,” Mullen said.

Nichols said he returned to Maine with a drug problem and resorted to petty burglary and theft to pay for heroin.

“I ended up stealing stuff to pay for my habit,” he said. “I had never done that stuff before — never.”

He said he has a message for young people who get into drugs.

“Painkillers are the devil; they really are,” he said. “They’re a devil drug. They’ll tear your life apart, and so will heroin. It’s a road you don’t want to go down. Take it from me. I’ve been a good kid — I was a good kid. I never would have hurt my family. I stole from my own father.”

Nichols had no excuses Monday, saying that he knew he was making a choice when he continued using heroin, finally injecting the drug to get high.

When the job ended in New Hampshire, where he could buy a bag of heroin for $40, he returned to Maine, where a bag sold for $300. Burglaries and thefts in November and December 2015 finally led to his arrest.

He’s been in recovery at Discovery House in Waterville since shortly after he was arrested in December.

Nichols reportedly was the intended target of an alleged arson fire in June in Madison. Two brothers, Zachary and Alexis Casey, whose family runs Casey’s Market in Anson, were indicted in October on charges of class A felony arson for allegedly tossing a Molotov cocktail into a car owned by Nichol’s girlfriend, Sara Cookson, 25, destroying it. The brothers told investigators that they suspected Nichols was the one who stole marijuana plants from a legal grow operation and wanted to get revenge. An arson conviction is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Nichols said he was not the one who stole the plants, and the Casey brothers now know who did.

“The only thing we could think of between me and the fire marshals is that the kid who stole their pot, I introduced them,” he said. “That’s the only reason we could think of.”

The car was parked at Cookson’s home at 8 Middle St. in Madison, according to a court affidavit.

When the car was set ablaze, it was about 5 feet from an occupied three-unit apartment house. Firefighters managed to save the house.

Nichols said the 2008 Chevy Cobalt was Cookson’s first car. But according to police reports from Nichols’ arrest, the Chevy Cobalt was used as a getaway car in some of Nichols’ burglaries. Nichols was charged in March with several burglaries in which a Chevy Cobalt reportedly was used as a getaway car.

Nichols was first arrested Dec.19 after he was caught burglarizing a garage on Redneck Road in Starks. The residents of the home confronted him at the scene and convinced him to give back their property before he fled in a blue Chevrolet Cobalt, police said.

They then called the police, and the sheriff’s office was able to track Nichols down in the Cobalt. He admitted to the burglary, police said.

After his arrest, Nichols enrolled in a pre-trial contract with the Somerset County Community Corrections Program and continues to “taper off” the effects of the heroin addiction.

Nichols, who graduated from high school in 2006, also was ordered to pay more than $14,000 in restitution once he gets out of jail. He also is ordered to spend three years on probation once he is released.

Cookson said she also has a message for young people who find themselves getting into hard drugs.

“Get help,” she said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow