Football coach receives long-awaited second chance at his alma mater
It wasn’t the result Paul Withee wanted Sept. 7 as the Madison-Carrabec football team fell to Dexter in its first game of the season.
“They pretty much dominated the game offensively,” Withee said after the Bulldogs’ 37-10 loss. “We didn’t stop them too many times.”
But for the veteran coach, much like many of the players on his youthful roster, the game marked the start of a new relationship.
Withee had guided Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft to three Class C state championships and seven regional titles during a 19-year tenure as the football coach from 1990 to 2008.
In February 2012, he resigned after one year as head coach at Oxford Hills of South Paris after briefly posting a nude photograph of himself, intended to be private, on Facebook.
“There was never any malicious intent,” SAD 17 superintendent Rick Colpitts said at the time. “It [the picture] was never intended for the public. He tried to correct it. I feel badly for him. I wish him well.”
The parent of a student at the school reportedly was the only person who saw the photo, which was on the social media site for approximately a half-hour.
Withee spent recent years officiating the sport and pursuing a return to the sidelines. Last May, the 1977 Madison Area Memorial High School graduate was hired to fill the head coaching vacancy at his alma mater after former coach Scott Franzose resigned to take a similar position at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.
“To have it be back at my old high school is a good feeling,” Withee said of his return to coaching, “because it was pretty obvious now looking back on things that nobody else was going to give me this opportunity.
“Our objective is to build this program and to make it what it once was, one of the premier programs in the state.”
The 60-year-old Withee played under coaches John Wolfgram and John Krasnavage in high school, and was a sophomore when Madison won a share of the 1974 Class C state championship.
He has taken over a Madison program that also has enjoyed some recent success. The Bulldogs went 21-9 overall during the past three years, highlighted by a trip to the 2018 Class D South championship game.
The Bulldogs finished 5-5 last autumn, falling to Oak Hill of Wales 34-33 in overtime in the Class D South semifinals.
This year’s 31-player squad includes only five seniors, among them top running back Reid Campbell, who was injured early in the Dexter game and spent the rest of the afternoon on the sidelines.
Madison has relied on the spread offense in recent years, and Withee hopes to instill in a roster composed primarily of juniors and sophomores a more physical brand of play.
“That’s the style I like playing, and it’s going to take some time,” he said. “It took some time at Foxcroft that first year.”
The Ponies lost their first six games, but improved and won their past two en route to a playoff berth the following season.
Withee said he saw improvement during the Dexter game and hopes Madison-Carrabec will continue that trend during another challenging test Saturday at perennial Class D South contender Lisbon-Saint Dominic.
“That’s a goal for us as a coaching staff, for the team to get better every week and to hopefully make the playoffs and then do some damage,” he said. “Then hopefully they’ll get the urge and realize what they have to do in the weight room.”
Withee is a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at Madison Junior High School. For him, being back on the football sidelines and in the classroom is a career combination he relishes — but was uncertain if he would ever have the chance to do again.
“I’m getting to teach, and I’m getting to coach again, and that’s absolutely been my passion my entire life,” he said. “I’m really, really happy, and I’ve got a great group of kids. They’ve just got to get that mentality that I like.”