Dave St. Hilaire knew how to make one team out of two schools long before Winthrop and Monmouth combined their football programs last fall.

St. Hilaire, a long-time varsity and youth coach in the area, has been named head coach of the Winthrop/Monmouth football team, pending school committee approval on Wednesday night.

St. Hilaire, 49, replaces Joel Stoneton, who stepped down to become athletic director at Winthrop High School. Stoneton spent 10 years as head coach and 19 years overall on the coaching staff.

Last season, the first for the Winthrop/Monmouth cooperative team, St. Hilaire served as head coach of the middle school team, which also combined players from the two towns.

Stoneton added him to the varsity staff as wide receivers and linebackers coach. But last month, Stoneton resigned to become athletic director and dean of students for Winthrop middle and high schools.

“He couldn’t do both (serve as AD and coach),” St. Hilaire said. “He looked at the coaching staff, looked at me and, knowing I’ve been through the high school wars before and I’ve had coaching experience before,  said, ‘You’re next man up.”

According to Winthrop High School principal and acting athletic director Keith Morin, St. Hilaire was selected after an interview process that involved community members, other coaches and Morin. Morin said the committee interviewed “more than one candidate” and unanimously recommended St. Hilaire’s because of his coaching experience and familiarity with the Winthrop and Monmouth players.

“We are excited to have Dave on board,” said Morin, who is filling in for Stoneton as AD while Stoneton is on leave after the sudden death of his daughter, Kelsey. “We looked at his tenure here coaching within the district, both football and hockey, and bringing that experience working with teams of students from two towns is certainly an asset for us.”

St. Hilaire, a cousin of the late Lee St. Hilaire, the 2001 James J. Fitzpatrick Trophy-winning quarterback, spent two years as an assistant coach for the combined Winthrop middle school team prior to taking over the head coaching job last year. He had two prior stints coaching the Winthrop middle school team, as head coach 1990-92 and as an assistant coach in 2000-01.

From 2000-06, he was head coach of the cooperative varsity hockey team Winthrop shared with Hall-Dale. St. Hilaire knows the challenges of coaching students from two different schools

“Both schools have different academic eligibility standards,” St. Hilaire said. “As far as Monmouth, the middle school football team was merged last year for the first time, as well, so I’ve coached the freshmen and sophomores all the way up through, except for the Monmouth sophomores. I know a lot of the kids and I know a lot of the parents from both committees.”

Winthrop/Monmouth finished 9-1 in Western Class D last year, going undefeated through the regular season and defeating Telstar in the regional quarterfinals before being upset by Dirigo in the semifinals, 22-20.

The Ramblers graduated 19 players from that squad. They will begin preseason practices next week with a solid senior nucleus and talented sophomore class that will have to get used to varsity competition quickly.

“We’ve got a lot of kids that are skilled players along the lines and at the skill positions,” said St. Hilaire, who is a Hannaford warehouse supervisor in Winthrop. “But with a lot of two-way starters last year, not a lot of those guys have seen a lot of varsity action. There are a few that saw quite a bit last year and others were involved, but it’s getting used to the speed of that varsity action which will be a challenge for them.”

“We’ve got some weapons, and we’ve got enough key players to rely on on the field,” he said. “The thing we’re going to need is some leaders to step forward.”

Combining the two teams forced players from both schools to make a lot of adjustments last season, so St. Hilaire is hoping to minimize the disruption of having a new head coach this season.

“We want to keep a lot of the day-to-day traditions, like team dinners and all of that stuff. We want to keep that as consistent as possible, just to make that transition smooth for the kids,” said St. Hilaire, who will call offensive plays while  assistant coach Jarod Richmond calls the defense. “Just about everybody on the coaching staff is returning, so there’s consistency there.”

The Ramblers open the season Sept. 6 at Lisbon.


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