The two hugged, then chatted about the good old days when Gilbert played for Withee on championship teams at Foxcroft and about the new opportunites ahead — like Withee’s pending appointment as the new head football coach at Oxford Hills High School in South Paris.
Such conversations are one of the primary reasons Withee is returning to coaching after a two-year hiatus, with his hiring at Oxford Hills approved Monday night by the SAD 17 board of directors.
“I missed the relationships you develop more than anything else, and the hugs,” said Withee.
The Madison native will take over for Nate Danforth, whose contract was not renewed for the coming season. Danforth coached the Vikings to a 2-22 record over three years, including 1-7 last fall in Pine Tree Conference Class A play.
“We are very excited to have a coach with a wealth of experience both on and off the field and in education as well,” Oxford Hills athletic administrator Jeff Benson said. “We are anxious to get him started with our program and our athletes. He has an excellent coaching background and we are looking forward to working with him.”
Withee, who also hopes to land a teaching position within the Oxford Hills school district, met with freshman, sophomore and junior football players at the school Tuesday, in part emphasizing the need to commit to off-season weight training in order to restore the Vikings as a contender in the PTC.
Withee also met with other football coaches in the Oxford Hills system.
“They were very supportive, very encouraging,” he said. “They want to change the attitude here back to what I always remember about Oxford Hills football, tough kids who were always competitive.”
Withee arrived at Foxcroft in 1990 after serving as an assistant coach at Sanford and guided the Ponies to a 150-56 record over 19 seasons with three Class C state titles (1996, 2003 and 2007) and seven Eastern Maine crowns (1996, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007).
Withee led Foxcroft to a 6-4 finish and a berth in the Eastern C semifinals in 2008, his last season with the LTC power before school officials opted not to renew his annual teaching contract for the following year.
“I missed the competition, and the opportunity to play for championships,” said Withee, who has spent time in Maine and Florida during the last 18 months. “You have the love for the game like all coaches and players do, and coaching now is like playing for me. Then when it’s taken away from you, it really hits home.
“But that’s all in the past. I look at the opportunity that Jeff Benson and [Oxford Hills principal] Ted Moccia has given me, and I want to make them proud, work my butt off and do the best job I can.”