The Foxcroft Academy Ponies have been one of the state’s most dominant Class C football programs over the past nine years with six LTC championships and two state crowns.
The Ponies had one of their most inexperienced teams in recent memory last fall and produced an uncharacteristic 5-5 record.
However, the record was misleading because the Ponies came a point away from earning another Eastern Maine championship game berth, losing 14-13 to undefeated Stearns of Millinocket in the semifinals. The fifth-seeded Ponies had upset No. 4 Bucksport 14-6 in the quarterfinals.
“We had lost 18 kids from the year before and got off to a slow start,” said third-year coach Danny White. “But we came on strong as the year went along and that bodes well for this season.”
Senior second-team All-LTC defensive end Matt LaCasce, who is also a tackle on offense, said the 2010 season left a “bitter taste” in his mouth.
And he expects the Ponies to bounce back strong.
“I think we’re going to be much better this season,” predicted LaCasce.
“We came up a bit short last year. We have a chip on our shoulders. We want to clean house,” said senior fullback-linebacker Cody Coiley.
“We have lofty goals but, at the same time, we want to take things week by week. Our mentality is we want to take it one game at a time,” said senior Chris Shorey, who will play a rare combination of positions: quarterback and outside linebacker.
“I like to hit. It works out for me,” said Shorey, the team’s third-leading tackler a year ago.
“All five offensive linemen are returning and we all got a lot of good experience last year. It should be a good year for us,” said LaCasce.
“We may not have a lot of quick scoring drives this season but we’ll have a lot of long drives and we should be able to wear our opponents out,” said senior Brent Thomas, who will center the offensive line and will also play tackle and end on defense.
Seniors Tim Weymouth and Ethan Preble will flank him as the guards on the offensive line and the tackles will be LaCasce and junior Louis LaFache. Transfer Alex Sedore can play both guard and tackle.
LaFache and Sedore will also be defensive tackles.
“Our line is a year older and a lot bigger this year,” said Shorey.
“Our line should be the strength of our team on both sides of the ball,” said White.
Fullback Coiley will be opening holes for Don Boyer, who will replace LTC first-team all-star running back-linebacker Dylan Andrews, who was also the team’s top tackler.
“Donny has the opportunity to be our surprise back, our playmaker,” said White.
Boyer was a second-team All-LTC cornerback a year ago.
Shorey is hoping to throw the ball more this season to complement the running game.
“I worked a lot on it in the off-season,” said Shorey.
“If we can mix in the pass a little bit more, we’ll be able to keep teams honest and that will free up our option game,” said White. “At times, teams packed the box on us last year and our inability to make plays through the air handcuffed us.”
Junior wide receiver Ryan Rebar, who is also a cornerback, will be one of Shorey’s primary targets.
The defense should be stout with the likes of Shorey, LaCasce, LaFache, Sedore, Boyer, Thomas, Coiley and Rebar headlining the unit. Boyer will make the move from cornerback to safety. There will be some inexperience in the secondary.
Coiley will handle the punting and placekicking.
“He’s a big part of what we do,” said White.
The Ponies open on the road in Calais for a 1 p.m. Saturday matchup against the Silverados.
FOXCROFT ACADEMY PONIES
2010 results: 5-5, lost to Stearns in Eastern Maine Class C semifinal
Head coach: Dan White, 3rd year
Key players: Chris Shorey, QB-OLB, Sr.; Matt LaCasce, OT-DE; Cody Coiley, FB-LB, Sr., Brent Thomas, C-DT-DE, Sr., Don Boyer, HB-S, Jr., Ryan Rebar, WR-CB, Jr., Louis LaFache, OT-DT, Jr.; Alex Sedore, OT-OG-DT, Jr.
Outlook: Although last year was a rebuilding season for the Ponies with a lot of new faces in the lineup, Foxcroft Academy finished strong and gained some confidence and valuable experience from a good playoff run. White expects his team to be “right up there among the top three teams in the league” and there’s no reason to doubt him. The offensive line returns intact as does quarterback Shorey, wide receiver Rebar and fullback Coiley. The defense is also loaded with veterans. A seventh Eastern Maine Class C title in 10 years is a distinct possibility.