Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A new era for Lancers

By GARY FITZ Staff Writer

You might say the partnership began about 15 years ago, when Jon Rich was a Londonderry Middle School basketball player and Howard Sobolov was his coach.

The pair kept in touch over the years and recently they were reunited. Sobolov, currently the athletic director at Goffstown High School, will become the new athletic director at Londonderry High School in July. Rich is the new head football coach.

Sobolov certainly has plenty of background in football. He coached at Londonderry under longtime coach Tom Sawyer before moving to Alvirne to start its football program in the early 1990s.

Sobolov led Alvirne to its only post-season game in school history before accepting the AD job in Goffstown and helping it get a new football program off the ground. He helped lead Goffstown in its transition from Class I to Class L sports, but found the Londonderry opening too good to pass up.

"With it's great facilities and high participation rate, Londonderry has to be one of the top high school athletic programs in the state,'' Sobolov said. "I talked it over with my family and we decided it was the right move at this point in my career.''

Sobolov said it was his desire to become a head football coach after nine years as an assistant that motivated him to leave in the first place. He returns with friends still working and coaching in the Londonderry system, including its new football coach.

"I know Jon and think he'll do a great job,'' Sobolov said. "He's worked hard to put himself in this position.''

Rich was strongly supported by Sawyer, who in his 27 years as Londonderry's only coach in school history guided the Lancers to six state titles and 12 championship games. Between 1985 and 1989, with Sobolov on the staff, Londonderry appeared in five state title games, winning three.

The next great era of Londonderry football was its three straight title games from 1996-1998. Rich was part of the 1996 title team, which beat Nashua 21-18 in a dramatic final. He stood on the sidelines, an injured senior, when Nashua beat Londonderry in the 1997 title game.

Rich went on to play football at Plymouth State College, including a 7-3 conference co-champion in 2001. Right after college he became the wide receiver coach at Saint Anselm and joined Sawyer's Londonderry staff in the fall of 2006.

"Of course Tom was a huge influence on me,'' Rich said. "There's no question he was a great motivator, but he also put in a ton of time as a student of the game, constantly looking to make himself a better coach. He never stopped learning.''

Rich is working to put together a staff, but is already being asked if he'll keep the Single Wing offense Sawyer installed last year, which led to senior Alex Theodhosi rushing for over 2,000 yards, a school record.

"Our style of offense will depend on our personnel and what offense puts us in the best position to be successful,'' Rich said.

And if he has any questions, he won't hesitate to call his old coach.

"He always said that if I need anything, he's just a phone call away,'' Rich said.

Nashua Telegraph, NH

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