The practices had been bad, and the Thursday walkthrough was worse. So when the Winthrop/Monmouth football team went into its Friday night showdown with Old Orchard Beach, coach Dave St. Hilaire had a stronger feeling of dread than hope.

“We couldn’t complete passes, we couldn’t execute,” he said. “The kids looked like their confidence was gone. It was bad.”

Friday came, the Ramblers hit the field and they couldn’t have looked better, throttling the Gulls 39-8 to improve to 4-0.

“The kids played lights out,” he said.

It became the norm. Winthrop/Monmouth dominated the Campbell Conference all season, compiling a perfect 7-0 record and coming within a single play of a spot in the Class D championship game.

The Ramblers were a machine, and for his steady hand in guiding it, St. Hilaire is the Kennebec Journal Coach of the Year in just his third year at the helm.

“We knew (the season) was going to have the potential to be really successful because we had the kids that could do that,” he said. “When we look at success, we don’t look at it as wins and losses. We look at success as the John Wooden theme of ‘Did you give your best when your best was needed?’ And these kids really did that each and every week, not only in games but in practices as well.”

W/M had enough talent, depth and versatility for that effort to translate on the scoreboard as well. After losses in the D South quarterfinals and semifinals in 2014 and ’15, respectively, the senior-laden Ramblers took to opponents with a balanced running attack, big-play passing game and physical, swarming defense against which few teams could match up.

All along, St. Hilaire kept the focus on the task ahead. Winthrop/Monmouth concentrated not on its perfect record or its zeroing in on the conference’s top seed, but on the next opponent. Four of its final five wins of the season came by 30 points or more, clear evidence of the short-term approach.

“We knew what we were capable of,” he said. “After (Old Orchard Beach), the kids’ confidence was sky high, individually and as a unit.”

The roll continued into the playoffs, where W/M beat Dirigo in the semifinals, 38-8. In the championship game against Lisbon, whom the Ramblers defeated 31-12 in the season opener, W/M saw an early lead disappear when Lisbon took a 14-10 lead in the fourth but seemed to rally for the win on Nate Scott’s touchdown with 16 seconds left.

In a season in which everything had gone right, the final seconds did not. Lisbon completed a desperation pass and scored on the ensuing play with less than a second to go, sealing a 20-17 victory and depriving the Ramblers of what had started to feel like was their destiny. It was a difficult ending to endure, but St. Hilaire knew it didn’t affect his takeaways from what was a dream season throughout much of the fall.

“Just being with those kids on a daily basis,” he said. “The 15 seniors we had were just outstanding. … Every practice was special, every moment together was special.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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