LIVERMORE FALLS — Walter Polky knows plenty about being on a high school football team facing exorbitant expectations.

As a senior at Winthrop High School, Polky was heart and soul of the defense for a Ramblers’ team that entered 2000 celebrated far and wide as the team to beat in Class C.

Led at quarterback by the late Lee St. Hilaire, Winthrop went down in history as one of the best squads ever to play in the division, storming to the Campbell Conference title and shutting out Maine Central Institute for the gold ball.

The high school game has evolved in a decade-and-a-half, but expectations along the Route 133 corridor for a senior-dominated squad that has steadily climbed the playoff ladder haven’t changed a bit.

Today, Polky is coach at Spruce Mountain, where explosive playmakers, an experienced offensive line and a smothering defense have the Phoenix touted as no less than a co-favorite to win the regional title.

Expectations? In this blended community where the two schools used to beat one another silly every October, with the survivor playing for a trophy in November more often than not, yup, they’ve got ’em.


“What you do with that stuff, you pay attention to the details,” Polky said. “You pay attention to finishing drills. Controlling things you can control. You don’t worry about any of the other stuff. You worry about how your team is doing per practice, period.”

That means breaking things down into simplest form, as coaches generally do in a scouting report.

Funny, because Polky spills the beans on his own team in the same, numerical language that opponents probably use.

“As long as we’ve got 12, 23 and 20, we’re all set,” Polky said. “We’ve got a chance.”

Those digits, respectively, identify quarterback Peter Theriault, wide receiver Deonte Ring and featured back Matt Vigue.

Each is a three-year starter, and each could be the best player in the league at his position.


Seniors Dylan Smith, Anthony York, Luke Greenwood and Denton Bilodeau all return for an offensive line that graduated only Lobster Bowl participant Tristan Castonguay. Stephen Sylvester steps in for him.

For all the chatter about his most proven commodities, however, Polky is equally excited about the future of the Darling brothers, junior Andrew and sophomore Austin, as well as junior fullback Brad Fournier.

“Austin, he is the next Matt, and Andrew is right there. As long as we have some horses up front we should be alright,” Polky said. “What we try to do is we try to make depth. Though Peter is the starting quarterback, we want three or four other quarterbacks. Matt’s the running back, and he’s going to be the key guy, but we need three or four other guys running the football.”

In terms of roster age and football experience, Spruce Mountain essentially is where conference rival and reigning state champion Leavitt was at the start of the 2013 season.

Eighteen of 22 positions are filled by a returning starter. Twenty-three players already own at least one varsity letter. Fourteen are seniors.

“The whole team’s back,” Polky said. “Fourteen seniors, and most of them are going to play. A lot of juniors are going to play. We’re the exact opposite of where we were when I first started. We were all sophomores starting and freshmen rotating in.”


It’s easy to forget that the Phoenix are still a work in progress as a consolidated football program.

Spruce Mountain is coming off its first winning season in three tries, and neither Jay nor Livermore Falls had a winning season in the final year before the merger.

“We want something that’s going to last, and to do that, you need to develop players,” Polky said. “You’ve got to develop them young. You’ve got to keep core groups of kids together and let them build, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

It worked about 17 miles down the road when many of Spruce’s current players were still in diapers.

Winthrop hardly had a hiccup Polky’s senior year. With Cape Elizabeth, Wells and Leavitt all having legitimate title hopes, things aren’t likely to come quite that easily for the Phoenix.

“They’re still high school kids. They’re still going to mess up. They’re still going to make you get frustrated,” Polky said. “You’ve just got to let them know, finish your drills, do your assignments, be part of the team and hopefully things will work out.”

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