Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Theodhosi is Player of the Year

Theodhosi is Player of the Year
New Hampshire Union Leader Sports
Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007

Alex Theodhosi opened many eyes during his record-setting season running the football.

Opposing coaches confessed that he closed quite a few, too.

"If anyone could say 'He's not that good,' it's me. He only got (48) yards against us," Pinkerton Academy of Derry head coach Brian O'Reilly said. "But it was the (48) scariest yards. He was an explosion waiting to happen."

Londonderry High's standout senior running back routinely dismantled Division I defenses in 2007. Amassing 2,001 rushing yards and 27 total touchdowns, Theodhosi headlines the 24-player New Hampshire Union Leader All-State Football Team as Player of the Year.

Bill Ball, head coach of Division II state champion Exeter High, is Coach of the Year. Ball guided the Blue Hawks to an 11-1 record and fifth title in program history. Exeter ended the three-year reign of Nashua's Bishop Guertin with a 14-13 title-game triumph.

Several candidates contended for Player of the Year honors. Theodhosi separated himself for two reasons, best said by Nashua North head coach Jason Robie.

"At the Division I level, it's very impressive. You rush for 2,000 yards when (opponents) know you're getting the ball? The numbers he put up in one year are just phenomenal," Robie said. "But it's as important what you do off the field as on it."

Theodhosi broke Steve Miller's 1999 school record of 1,440 rushing yards in the second-to-last week of the D-I regular season. Yet the pursuit of a 2,000-yard campaign still placed second to a classroom statistic: a cumulative 4.019 grade-point average.

Maintaining that mark will always mean more than running the length of 20 football fields, said the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Theodhosi, lauded by various coaches for avoiding disciplinary problems that hurt some standout athletes.

"When I was younger, my mom always forced me do all my homework. I didn't like it, but now it's habit. It helps me get A's on my report cards," said Theodhosi, currently drawing interest from several schools including Dartmouth College. "I used that (classroom approach) for football to prepare the same way on the field."

The assault on Londonderry's rushing record book began in the season-opener against Manchester Central. Londonderry unveiled its new offensive system -- the almost exclusive run-oriented Single Wing. In victory, "Theo" thundered ahead for 208 yards and a TD on 25 carries.

Similar efforts continued all season to key Londonderry's 7-4 campaign and second consecutive playoff berth. Theodhosi's performance in the state semifinals against top-seeded Nashua South nearly lifted Londonderry to its first title game since 2001.

Theodhosi ran 37 times for 333 yards and two TDs as the Lancers and Panthers combined for 662 total yards. The back-and-forth game, won by South, 35-31, earned a mention in the Nov. 19 issue of Sports Illustrated ("Ground Force," p. 127).

"For what he did for his team, he almost single-handedly brought them to the championship game -- almost," O'Reilly said. "I don't know what more you can do."

Extraordinary endurance was the key to Theodhosi's 255-carry campaign, said Londonderry's outgoing head coach, Tom Sawyer, who has guided the program since its inception in 1980.

The big-play running back had 200-yard outings against Central, Salem (42 carries, 228 yards, four TDs) and Manchester Memorial (25-271, four TDs). He twice cracked 300 yards, first achieving the feat against Concord (33-340, five TDs) before his memorable afternoon in the state semifinals.

"As far as a running back with power, who can hit, spin and break tackles, I think he's No. 1 (in the history of Londonderry football)," Sawyer said.

Bill Ball, in his ninth year as Exeter's athletics director, edged Sawyer and Pelham's Tom Babaian for the coaching honor. Adding to his responsibilities at Exeter, Ball serves on the NHIAA football committee and board of directors for the Joe Yukica New Hampshire chapter of the National Football Foundation.

"One of the things I like about being the AD and (football) coach, it gives me a real sense of what other coaches go through on a daily basis," said Ball, whose Blue Hawks have appeared in 10 of 12 D-II finals since 1996. "I think that's a really important thing to understand." Ball coaches the only football program to beat BG in the last four years. The Blue Hawks topped the Cardinals three times during the '06 and '07 seasons.

In 15 years as Exeter's head coach, Ball is 125-37 (.772 winning percentage).

Though the coach prefers to praise his players rather than accept credit, Brett McAllister said Exeter's success starts at the top.

"He (Ball) pushes you to the limits and he helps kids get there," said McAllister, one of two Blue Hawks on this year's team. "I never felt pushed beyond what I can do. All he wants is all you have. If you give 100-percent effort, he'll help you become a better athlete and better person. It's honestly all true."

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