BUCKSPORT – On any given Friday in Bucksport you can always count on a few things happening. The mill will crank out some paper products. The tide will come in and out on the Penobscot River. And Joel Sankey will be coaching a football game.
Friday night, Sankey was on the sidelines coaching his Golden Bucks (3-0) to a 35-12 win over Washington Academy. It was victory No. 125 for Sankey, making him the winningest active coach in the Little Ten Conference. His record is 125-66.
“It means I’ve done it a long time. And it means I haven’t been fired,” quipped Sankey.
Those who know him are not surprised by that response, nor are they surprised he has no idea how many wins his teams have racked up.
“He is such a great teacher of the game. A tremendous motivator,” said Orono Athletic Director Mike Archer, an LTC historian and a former coach with Sankey at Bucksport.
Sankey has been teaching social studies and coaching football since the late 1970s. He began as an assistant under Bob Carmichael and stayed on board with Bruce Morse, Tom Sullivan and Ivan Braun. He took over as head coach in 1994.
Only former Foxcroft coach Paul Withee (151) and former Stearns coach Art Greenlaw (134) have more league wins.
“I’ve been blessed with great kids and great assistants,” says Sankey. “It’s a great community to coach in. They love their football.”
And the players on this year’s squad love their coach. “He’s the best,” said Jake Cyr, a junior. “I’ve known him since I was 5 or 6 years old. He tells a lot of stories, great stories, especially when he’s mad at us.”
Sometimes those stories are subtle and silent. Senior lineman K.P. Hillaire remembers a practice a couple years ago when Sankey, an avid golfer, brought a club to the field and started teeing up golf balls, hitting them into the woods.
“He was kind of frustrated with us that week and his message was ‘If you guys don’t want to pay attention why should I waste my time.’ He didn’t really say anything. We got the message,” says Hillaire.
Sankey admits to being old school and the Bucksport kids love that about him. They love his passion, too.
Senior running back Nic Bishop came to Bucksport a couple years ago planning to only compete on the wrestling team. Then he met Sankey.
“He caught me in the hallway. Just talking to him he made it feel like I already played for him. He puts a lot of inspiration into you.”
“Coaching is like being in the classroom, (but) on the field I really have a captive audience,” said Sankey. “The day I stop coaching, it’ll be the practices I miss most.”
BOYS’ SOCCER: Bangor Christian had a 17-game shutout streak come to an end Thursday in an 11-1 win against Searsport, which also was the last team to score against the Patriots before the streak.