Foxcroft Academy head football coach Danny White’s involvement with the annual Maine Shrine Lobster Bowl Classic football game has come full circle.
White — then a student at Foxcroft Academy — played in the 2003 game, which was won by the East 55-8 for the East’s second win in 14 games. Since then, he’s served as an assistant coach for six subsequent games.
But this summer, White will be making his debut as the head coach of the East team. The event pits this past season’s seniors from the West against the East and will be held at Lewiston’s Don Roux Field on Saturday, July 16, at 4 p.m.
They will play four 15-minute quarters instead of the four 12-minute quarters they play in high school.
White is coming off a season in which he guided his Dover-Foxcroft-based Ponies to an 11-0 season and the state Class D championship.
The teams will convene at Foxcroft Academy on Sunday and will practice for a week while living in the dorms on campus.
“Having played in this game in 2003, coaching in it six times, and having the opportunity to be the head coach coming off the heels of a state championship, while also being able to coach three of my players, is pretty special,” said the 37-year-old White.
He also said being able to practice where he works and lives adds even more to it.
Quarterback Austin Seavey, offensive lineman Anthony Smith and utility back Jesse Drury played important roles leading the Ponies to their first state title since 2012 and are on the East roster.
White said everybody is “very excited” to have the Lobster Bowl return to its normal 11 vs. 11 tackle football format for the first time since 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 game and forced last year’s contest to be restructured as a 7 vs. 7, eight-team touch football affair.
Each will have 15 separate practices.
“It’s a pretty grueling schedule,” White said.
Aside from football practice, the teams will also take time away to go to the Sports Arena on the Bangor-Hermon line for bowling and another day they will go to Peaks-Kenny State Park on Sebec Lake in Dover-Foxcroft.
White, who will begin his 14th season as the head coach at Foxcroft Academy in the fall, said the preparation for the game began in February when the coaching staffs and players were named.
Rosters have changed as some players opt out for reasons such as military involvement or their college coach advising against it.
White said having been an assistant six times will be beneficial for his head coach role.
“I’ve learned a thing or two so I know what to expect. Some of my assistants have been the head coaches in previous Lobster Bowls. There is a lot of organization and a lot of moving parts involved when you are getting this many people together,” White said.
He will be assisted by Oxford Hills of South Paris’ Mark Soehren, John Bapst of Bangor’s Danny O’Connell, Mt. Blue of Farmington’s Matt Friedman, Windham’s Matt Perkins and Don Ledbetter, Foxcroft Academy’s Ryan Dankert, Dexter’s Andy Shorey, and Houlton’s Jon Solomon.
With players from so many schools and just one week of practice, it is important the coaches limit the amount of plays or schemes they subject the players to.
“Simplicity is important in a game like this. Simplicity and execution,” he said.
“You aren’t going to use a lot of unique plays because you have only so much time to practice things that you’re going to use in the game. But both sides will be mixing in a few things they feel like their team will be particularly good at.”
Coaches will also be cognizant of the fact the players won’t necessarily be in “football shape” even though many of them have been working out preparing for their college season this fall.
“The game is the goal but we first have to get them through the week from a physical and mental standpoint,” White said.
The game has raised more than $750,000 for the Shriners Hospitals for Children over the years.
The West has a 20-10 historical advantage, including a 60-14 win in 2019 in which it broke the record for points in a game.