LEWISTON — Bruce Nicholas is the same age as the retired coach, Bill County, he is replacing at the helm of Lewiston High School football.

His have-clipboard, will-travel passion for youth sports has always given him a much younger image, however. And Nicholas, 56, hopes that energy will fuel what he sees as a multi-year plan to lead the Blue Devils back to championship glory.

“I still feel that I’m a kid at heart,” Nicholas said. “I hopefully I bring that blend of experience and youth to the position.”

The experience is vast. Nicholas led Oak Hill through two separate stints for 16 seasons.

He also was an assistant at Gray-New Gloucester under Phil Prideaux, Jay under Mike Henry, and Edward Little under Darren Hartley.

Most recently, Nicholas spent the past three seasons on County’s staff, including two as defensive coordinator.

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“That was something I had never done before,” Nicholas said. “I had always been in charge of offense, but they go hand in hand.”

Nicholas was relieved of his Oak Hill duties after the 2008 season.

Today, the Raiders are two-time defending Class D champions. In Nicholas’ second tenure, they were a small Class B school, fighting to compete with the likes of Leavitt, Winslow, Waterville and Gardiner.

“My last game at Oak Hill was against Leavitt in the Class B playoffs,” Nicholas said. “They were No. 1. We were No. 8. We lost 20-18 and were driving down the field in the last minute.”

Those uphill battles may serve him well the first year at Lewiston, which will be in its third season of playing in a retooled Class A division that brought rugged Greater Portland programs back onto the Devils’ schedule.

Lewiston went 4-13 in County’s final two seasons, including a 1-7 ledger in 2014.

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“It’s not easy, but I see good times ahead for football at Lewiston High School,” Nicholas said. “It’s a big school. There are a lot of kids walking around. I’m going to do my best to get those kids out. There are a lot of kids playing at the middle school.”

Nicholas taught at Oak Hill for 25 years before moving to LHS three years ago. That also should help with the transition.

In the interest of starting fresh, all assistant coaching jobs have been posted. The interview process is ongoing.

“I’ve had some veteran guys ask me what we are doing, and I’ve told them it’s all open,” Nicholas said. “And I’m sure when this hits the papers that we will hear from more of them.”

The wheels began turning in Nicholas’ mind two years ago when County told him of his retirement plans.

“It’s very exciting. I knew I still wanted to be a head coach,” Nicholas said. “I didn’t want to be an assistant. It’s just the way things worked out. I wasn’t ready to hang up the whistle just yet, and things fell into place where I’ll get another chance.”

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Last year’s returning players will notice some continuity, thanks to Nicholas’ promotion, but the new coach indicated that he won’t be shy to shake things up.

“Bill and I are different people,” Nicholas said. “He did a lot of things that I will continue, and there are some things I will do differently. I’m just going to be myself. I know what’s worked for me.”

Lewiston has not won a Class A championship since 1987. During County’s 16 seasons, the Devils lost in the regional final in 2002 and 2010.

The rich football tradition includes three Fitzpatrick Trophy winners: Gerry Raymond, Brian Seguin and Jared Turcotte.

“We’ve been fortunate. There have been a lot of decent athletes. It has been tough the past few years, Nicholas said. “We will be a little young next year, but we’re going to try to go out and win every game and start building toward bigger things.”

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