Winlow football coach Mike Siviski watches a drill during a 2001 practice at Winslow. Morning Sentinel file photo

 

WINSLOW — The dean of Maine high school football coaches is calling it a career. Longtime Winslow High School head coach Mike Siviski is retiring after three and a half decades leading the Black Raiders.

“Sometimes it’s just time,” Siviski, 73, said. “It has for the most part been not work, but fun. It’s the right time. It seems like it went quick.”

Siviski said questions surrounding the upcoming season in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic were a factor in his decision.

“I’m not surprised he is retiring. He’s getting older now, and with the virus, it just might’ve been time,” said Dylan Hapworth, a standout player on Winslow’s 2014 state championship winning team. “He leaves his mark on Winslow and on the state. He just had so many winning seasons. He’s right up there as the best in Maine high school football for sure. He’s just done it for so long.”
A Winslow native and 1965 graduate of Winslow High School, Siviski was head coach of the Black Raiders for 35 seasons. He won more than 250 games at Winslow, with seven state championships, most recently back-to-back Class C titles in 2014 and 2015. Under Siviski, Winslow won 11 regional championships.

“It’s hard to sum up in words what he means to Winslow football. I just know that we were unstoppable with him as our coach,” Hapworth said. “He would just drill it in us that if we could just perfect this one play, we’d be unstoppable. we were always in the right places and always knew the fundamentals. That’s what made him so good.”

Siviski was a water boy for the Black Raiders when he was a boy, and said he was proud to continue the strong football tradition of Winslow.

“Football is more than playing. They say football builds character. No, football reveals character,” Siviski said. “We’ve had very good character and very good tradition. It’s been my pleasure to coach in a town with such great tradition.”

Leavitt head coach Mike Hathaway said preparing to face Siviski’s team was always a challenge. Hathaway’s Hornets were rivals with Winslow when both played in Class B North, and met twice in the Class C state championship game, with each team winning once.

“Mike was always very diverse with amount of formations and plays he used and always had a new wrinkle each week. Tough teams to prepare for. Also, always felt like he was a great special teams guy. Return game was always well-schemed and well-coached on technique. Well-schemed and well-timed fakes too,” Hathaway said. “(Siviski was) Also great at getting his great players the ball. When he had studs he knew how to use them.”

Colby Pomeroy was a co-captain and quarterback on Siviski’s final Winslow team last fall. Pomeroy credited Siviski with instilling the confidence he needed to become a better passer.

“Growing up, we’re all little kids going to football games and we idolize the players and coach Siviski,” Pomeroy said. “When you’re a freshman coming in, you’re a little intimidated by him, but you’re so lucky to play for him.”

Siviski gave a lot of credit for the Black Raiders success over the years to a coaching staff that saw little turnover over the years.

Winslow football coach Mike Siviski works with players East squad during a 2002 Lobster Bowl practice at Colby College in Waterville. Morning Sentinel file photo

“We’ve had outstanding staffs at Winslow. Kudos to them. We’ve been able to retain coaches. We don’t have to coach the coaches,” Siviski said.

After serving as a young head coach at Stearns High School in Millinocket, Maine Central Institute head coach Tom Bertrand spent the 2001 season on Siviski’s staff at Winslow. Bertrand saw firsthand how Siviski prepares his assistants almost as much as he prepares the players.

“I learned a ton. I was still a young coach. Around (Siviski) and all those guys, it was clear he knew how to coach his players, but knew how to work to the strengths of his coaches,” Bertrand said.

In recent years, Bertrand’s Huskies have been Winslow’s biggest rival in the Big 11 Conference. MCI beat Winslow in the conference championship game last season, after Winslow took the regular season matchup.

“You know (Winslow’s) going to be prepared,” Bertrand said. “Mike’s a football icon, that’s for sure. If you’re not ready going into that game, he’ll get the jump on you early.”

With Siviski’s retirement, the Winslow football team will have just its fourth head coach since 1958. Wally LaFountain coached the Black Raiders for 11 season, followed by the late Harold “Tank” Violette. When Violette retired from coaching after the 1984 season, Siviski took over.

Siviski met with returning players Wednesday afternoon to let them know his decision.

“I told the kids, ‘I’m just a Winslow kid like you,'” Siviski said. “(Football) means something to the kids in Winslow. We don’t have to push them. It’s ingrained.

“A lot of joys, some tears, but it has to end sometime. I think Winslow is in pretty damn good shape right now.”

 

 

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