Coaching milestones are symbolic of long-term success, typically with a single athletic program.
But that’s not all they represent.
“It means I haven’t gotten fired,” joked Joel Sankey, who scored his 100th victory as the head football coach at Bucksport High School when the Golden Bucks held off Foxcroft Academy 13-12 during their annual homecoming game at Carmichael Field on Friday night.
The victory came on the same weekend Sankey was one of the inaugural inductees into the Bucksport High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Sankey is now 100-61 since taking the head coaching post at Bucksport in 1994, and trails only former Foxcroft Academy coach Paul Withee (151 wins), former Stearns of Millinocket and Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln (134) and current Winslow coach Mike Siviski (103) in career LTC coaching victories.
Friday’s victory also enabled Sankey to pass Bob Carmichael — for whom the Bucksport field is named — for the school record for career coaching wins.
“Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Bob Carmichael is an honor,” said Sankey.
Sankey began his coaching career on the freshman level at Bucksport, and later became the Golden Bucks’ offensive coordinator under former head coach Bruce Morse. Sankey went on to serve as an assistant at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine and at Bangor High School before returning to Bucksport in the early 1990s, first as an assistant and then as the head coach.
Under Sankey’s leadership Bucksport won the 2004 Class C state championship and has been a perennial contender within the LTC ranks.
“There’s nothing like Eastern Maine football on a Friday night,” said Sankey. “Last Friday we played Foxcroft and there was a great crowd, there must have been a thousand people there.”
Sankey admits the job has changed considerably during his tenure with the Golden Bucks, in part because high school football in the region has evolved into a more diverse product.
“More and more teams are going to the spread where they’re putting a very good athlete at quarterback and giving him the option to run or pass,” said Sankey. “Then you’ve got some teams running the double-wing, so as a coach preparing for games it makes it tough.”
Bucksport, like most other communities in Eastern Maine, has experienced a downturn in student enrollment in recent years, and the football program there lost its freshman team a year ago due to budget cuts.
That enrollment trend has perhaps forced many coaches to adjust their football philosophy to the players available. Under Sankey’s guidance, Bucksport has at times been a prolific passing team — for seven straight years the Golden Bucks had a 1,000-yard passer — and at times been a run-oriented juggernaut, with 2004 Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Nick Tymoczko and Nate Warren, a Fitzy semifinalist in 2008, each rushing for more than 2,000 yards as a senior.
“If you could recruit all the players then you could stay with a system,” said Sankey, “but with the way it is you’ve got to adapt to what you have.”
But no matter the specifics of the game, the emotional ties between this mill town and its high school football remain strong.
“Overall the kids are still the same, and this is still a community that really supports the program,” Sankey said. “The kids work hard and there’s a good summer program in place.
“All in all, football’s alive and well in Bucksport.”
How much longer Sankey will continue to lead that football program is less certain.
“We’ll see,” he said. “I’ve been doing this at one level or another ever since I started teaching, it’s been 35 or 36 years. I’m a dinosaur when it comes to this.”
Yet the first 100 victories — and the losses that have come with them — have already provided plenty of memories.
“It’s been an interesting ride,” Sankey said.
Seccareccia shines in rivalry
Saturday afternoon’s Bangor-Cony football game was billed as a clash between the two top quarterbacks in Eastern Maine Class A, but Bangor’s Joe Seccareccia looked at the matchup as more of an 11-on-11 battle.
“I tried not to put that [quarterback rivalry] thing in my head throughout the week,” said Seccareccia after his team remained unbeaten with a 28-7 victory at Alumni Field in Augusta. “It was more one of those things where we were both going to play our hardest and the most physical team was going to come out on top.
“The first and second quarters we kind of came out flat, but in the third quarter we put it to them and shut down Duncklee and used our pass game as much as we could against their defense.”
Seccareccia did win the statistical battle on offense, completing 11 of 18 passes for 221 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while rushing nine times for 50 yards.
For his part, Duncklee rushed 26 times for 89 yards and a touchdown while completing 12 of 36 passes for 127 yards with an interception.
Bangor coach Mark Hackett said his team will gain some long-term benefits from playing against Cony’s spread offense.
“It was a great stretch for our kids, both in the secondary and along the line of scrimmage and we tend to have trouble with that,” said Hackett. “We got a lot better (Saturday) with the look that they gave us.
“If we don’t expand the game, we’re not going to get to where we want to go, and we’ve always believed that,” said Hackett. “We’re trying to do that, and sometimes it’s painful.”
Seccareccia averaged 20.9 yards per completion, and divided that long-range passing game among three receivers, with Josiah Hartley making five catches for 76 yards, Nick Sherwood three receptions for 94 yards and tight end John Kelley three catches for 51 yards.
That effort came one week after the Rams struggled to catch the ball in a 32-19 win over Mount Ararat of Topsham.
“‘Sac’ throws the ball similar to a college quarterback, it’s not easy to catch,” said Hackett. “But they’re right there and sometimes [the receivers] don’t concentrate and sometimes they concentrate too much. We know we can play and we know we have great receivers, and with Sac in the backfield those other guys are going to have to step up and they did.
“Nick had another great game, John Kelley had a few catches and Josiah made some great catches. I’m proud of all of them.”
But perhaps Seccareccia’s biggest play of the game came on defense, an interception of a Duncklee pass in the end zone that prevented Cony from extending its 7-6 second-quarter lead.
“That was huge,” said Hackett. “I think he’s got a turnover or caused a turnover in the last eight games he’s played. I know he did in all the playoff games last year and in all the games so far this year. He’s just huge.”
Rockland to honor alumni
Less than a year away from merging with Georges Valley of Thomaston Rockland District High School will celebrate its history with a variety of events, including two being held in conjunction with Rockland football games this fall.
Alumni Recognition Night will occur at the Oct. 1 Homecoming game against Dexter, when alumni from Rockland District High School and Rockland High School will be recognized during a halftime ceremony. Alumni who wish to attend and be recognized during the ceremony should contact Susan Johnson at email@example.com; Joan Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Paulette Sylvester at email@example.com. When leaving your name, please include the year in which you graduated.
Football Alumni Recognition Night will occur at the Oct. 22 home game against Old Town, the last regular-season game of the year and the last football game of the Rockland era, as the team will carry a new school name and mascot in 2011.
All former players and coaches at Rockland’s high school are invited to attend and be recognized during a halftime ceremony. This also will be an Orange and Blackout Night, with everyone encouraged to wear the school colors to the game. Any former Rockland football player who would like to be recognized should contact RDHS athletic director Jim Leonard at firstname.lastname@example.org or Paulette Sylvester at email@example.com. When leaving your name, please include the year in which you graduated.