Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Theodhosi eyes a school rushing record

Running back Alex Theodhosi eyes a school rushing record
New Hampshire Union Leader Sports
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007

LONDONDERRY – He has long since shed the label of "worst-kept secret" in Division I high school football.

In fact, Alex Theodhosi isn't a secret of any kind any longer.

Theodhosi's transformation into a well-known workhorse is the result of a likely record-setting campaign carrying the football for Londonderry High. The highlight-reel running back has undoubtedly become the main focus of opponents' defensive film sessions.

"I don't think there's any secret he's going to get the ball," Londonderry head coach Tom Sawyer said of his 5-foot-11, 205-pound playmaker who's on pace to shatter the program's single-season rushing record.

In eight games -- a 6-2 start for Londonderry (5-2 D-I) -- Theodhosi has rushed for 1,347 yards and 19 touchdowns on 171 carries (7.9 yards per carry). With regular-season road games at Nashua South and D-II Dover remaining, Theodhosi is 93 yards shy of the school record. Steve Miller rushed for 1,440 yards in 1999, Sawyer said.

"I never really expected coming into the season to get the ball (this much)," Theodhosi said. "Last year I may have had 100 carries for 580 yards. I had more than that in the first four games (106 carries for 778 yards). It's been great. But it's always 'Team-everything'. I couldn't do it without my team."

Sawyer insisted the credit Theodhosi gives his teammates, particularly the offensive linemen for opening big holes, is sincere. Yet for all the attention Theodhosi attempts to deflect, he can't completely avoid the spotlight.

Fleet of foot -- Theodhosi ran a sub-4.60 (4.58 seconds) in the 40-yard dash, according to Sawyer -- the senior bulked up considerably for the '07 season. A two-sport star in football and track, Theodhosi can bench press 320 pounds.

But the 17-year-old has two athletic achievements on his resume that best explain why he is an effective running back. Theodhosi has a 34-inch vertical jump. He also has a broad jump of 9 feet, 11 inches. Translation: it's all about leg power.

Along with speed and strength, Theodhosi is known for his exceptional endurance. It's another reason he excels in Londonderry's "Single Wing" offense where the ball is snapped directly to the runner; a quarterback doesn't line up under center.

The results have been astounding.

Theodhosi ran for 200+ yards in three of Londonderry's first four games. He gashed Manchester Central (25 carries, 208 yards, TD), Salem (42-228, four TDs) and Manchester Memorial (25-271, four TDs), all Lancer victories.

But his biggest single-game performance to date came last Friday at Lancer Park. Pouring rain and a slick surface couldn't slow "Theo," who rushed for 340 yards and five TDs on 33 carries (10.3 YPC). Londonderry leveled Concord, 47-13.

"He'd rather run over you than run around you," said Sawyer, coaching his 28th and final season at Londonderry. "I'd have to rank him as punishing a runner as we've ever had. He's up there in the top two or three (overall), that's for sure."

Turns out Theodhosi hits the books as hard as he hits would-be tacklers. He is ranked 37 of 474 students in his class. He earned a cumulative grade-point average of 4.019 from his freshman through junior years. His GPA this year is currently 4.45.

Those numbers make Theodhosi an appealing college student-athlete. Dartmouth and Bowdoin are among the schools expressing interest, Sawyer said.

"He is a kid that always asks a lot of questions," Sawyer said. "He's a thinker. We try to tell him, 'Don't be a thinker (on the field). Just go out and play.' Sometimes he thinks too much about his (football) assignments."

Theodhosi -- who first played football as a seventh-grader but didn't fully commit to the sport until his sophomore year -- said overthinking stems from a fear of failure. As a sophomore and junior, he routinely carried a pencil and paper on the practice field. He was always prepared to take notes, Sawyer said with a laugh.

However, Theodhosi said his head coach wasn't laughing during the team's annual preseason trip to Maine. Trying to survive double sessions in intense heat, Theodhosi admitted he was reluctant to aggressively hit holes between the tackles.

"Coach actually took me out because ... I would dance too much (at the line of scrimmage) instead of going straight ahead," Theodhosi said. "I think he was just trying to get me upset. In doing that, he helped me get better."

In turn, Theodhosi & Co. are legitimate threats to claim the program's first state title since 1998. Londonderry last played for the championship in 2001.

"The question we had was 'Is he going to be able to take that kind of punishment and run up inside the tackles?'" Sawyer said. "He's shown he can do it. ... He's sending me off with a good show."

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