MACHIAS, Maine — Bob Sinford and the boys soccer program at Machias Memorial High School have been intertwined for more than three decades.
As a high school senior, Sinford capped off his playing career at his alma mater as the starting center halfback on a Bulldogs’ squad that captured the 1978 Eastern Maine Class C championship.
He went on to play soccer for four years at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, followed by a fifth year at the school as an assistant coach.
But he never strayed far from home, returning to Machias in 1984 to begin his coaching and teaching career.
Twenty-nine years later, Sinford is an institution of sorts at his alma mater, and has 300 soccer coaching wins to prove it.
Sinford reached that milestone on Oct. 10 when the Bulldogs scored a 5-4 victory over Shead of Eastport.
He’ll take a 300-132-2 coaching record into Wednesday’s Downeast Athletic Conference championship game against Calais, scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. start at Machias.
Sinford has an average of more than 10 victories per season during his 29 years with the Bulldogs.
“It’s all about the kids,” said Sinford, who serves as assistant principal and physical education teacher at the Rose M. Gaffney Elementary School in Machias and is in his 18th year as athletic administrator at both the Gaffney School and at the high school level.
Sinford, who also has had numerous stints of coaching basketball and baseball in Machias over the years, has guided the Machias boys soccer team to Class D state championships in 1990 and 2003, Eastern Maine titles in 1990, 1998, 2000 and 2003, five additional trips to the regional championship game and nine DAC crowns.
Sinford’s soccer teams have missed qualifying for postseason play just twice during his coaching tenure, and his Bulldogs have achieved that success despite fielding teams with varying degrees of experience.
“Sometimes you have classes with just a few kids who are athletes, and sometimes you have a lot,” he said. “I remember one year I started one senior and eight freshmen, and there were a couple of other classes with 10 or 12 kids who played and by the time a group like that plays three or four years together you’re going to be pretty good.”
This year’s Machias team features a balanced roster of five seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen, a squad led by captains A.J. Dolley, Dustin Getchell and Josh Scoville and the team’s leading scorer, junior Finn Janssen.
The Bulldogs ended the regular season with a 7-4-2 record, and are expected to be the No. 4 seed for the upcoming Eastern Maine Class D playoffs.
Machias has played a challenging schedule, with two of its losses coming to three-time defending state champion Bangor Christian and another at the hands of reigning Western D champion Greenville.
Sinford will observe his 30th anniversary with the Machias boys soccer program next fall, and he has no plans to step away anytime soon.
“I’ll keep doing it as long as I enjoy it,” said Sinford. “I love working with the kids.”