PORTLAND — The game, their title shot and their high school football careers over, the Winslow High School seniors lined up at the far end zone of Fitzpatrick Stadium and prepared to accept congratulatory embraces from teammates.

Their were tears, hugs and handshakes.

Moments earlier, Foxcroft Academy beat Winslow 22-20 in a tight Class C football state championship game.

“Yeah, it hurts,” Winslow senior defensive tackle Brock Deschaine said. “It hurts.”

Only Deschaine and classmates know how long it will take to move on from the many missed opportunities that presented the Raiders (10-2) on Saturday night.

Their impact on the program?

Well, that is one indelible imprint that will always be remembered, Winslow coach Mike Siviski said.

“Three years ago there was no leadership here,” Siviski said. “None. These senors helped us bring the program back. They made it a respectable program again. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

Added senior center captain Sean Cote: “We put in a lot of work. We’ll be remembered here.”

When Cote and his senior classmates were freshmen, the Raiders finished 3-5 in the Pine Tree Conference Class B division. The following year, 2010, Winslow struggled to a 2-6 finish. Both seasons ended without a playoff berth.

“My freshman year, I lost everything,” Cote said. “I had a knee injury and lost everything. That year, we got the crap kicked out of us. We lost all respect. We had to dig our way out of it. We had to get that respect back, and I think we did.”

Slowly, the Raiders did just that.

Winslow dropped to Campbell Conference Class C last season. The Black Raiders went 6-2 and earned the fifth seed in the playoffs. However, it was a short-lived postseason experience: The Raiders lost a tough 34-22 quarterfinal game to Lisbon.

“We were in a rebuilding year our freshman year,” Deschaine said. “We kept improving every year.”

The Raiders turned the corner this fall. After losing to Dirigo in Week 2, they reeled off nine consecutive victories to reach the Class C state championship game.

Winslow had opportunities Saturday night, but Little Ten Conference champ Foxcroft capitalized on a key turnover in the second quarter and then hung on for the victory and gold ball.

“It feels really good to be the class that got us back,” Deschaine said.

Added Cote: “Hopefully, the (underclassmen) will listen to our advice. Hopefully, we can keep this going.”

Winslow hasn’t won a state title since 2001, when it was in Class B. It hadn’t played for a title since 2006.

And while the Winslow seniors will leave without hoisting a gold ball, their impact helped bring back a once-dominant program.

“Absolutely,” Siviski said. “They had a lot of dedication. They worked hard in the weight room. They worked hard in the offseason. They gave us some leadership that we didn’t have before. They’ll be remembered for that.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640

[email protected]

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