Campbell, Alvirne corner the local football market
Where is the high school football capital of the area?
Nashua, right, where there are three schools? Merrimack? The Souhegan Valley?
Nope. Head across the Merrimack river to the outlying towns of Hudson and Litchfield.
At least that’s the way it is this year,and who knows, it could be for a little while. How ironic that Alvirne, as well as its offspring Campbell, are in state championship games on the same day at the University of New Hampshire.
The two programs and coaching staffs seem intertwined.
Campbell head coach Glen Costello and Alvirne head man Tarek Rothe were once on the same coaching staff at Alvirne as assistants, and Costello actually came to Campbell when Rothe left the Cougars’ staff for Alvirne, where he was already a teacher.
Costello and Rothe worked under former Alvirne head coach Bobby Nimblett. Costello is also an Alvirne alum, having graduated in 2001 as a member of the first full four-year group the Broncos program had.
His coach? Alvirne’s first football coach ever, current Londonderry athletic director Howard Sobolov. Costello was a player on the first Alvirne team to make the playoffs, in 1999, the Broncos eventually losing to Timberlane.
“I have the utmost respect for Coach Sobolov,” Costello said. “I think he helped build me into the man I am today, and some of those principles I think I still apply to coaching.”
And don’t forget, there were Litchfield players on those early Alvirne teams, as Campbell wasn’t established until 1999.
Playing in a small division thanks to a small enrollment, the Cougars reached their first state title game in 2008 (falling to Franklin in the smallest division at the time, Division VI ) but didn’t get to another one until winning it all in Division III in 2014.
The two schools rarely, if ever, compete against each other, usually two Divisions removed in most all sports. But, as Costello said, “I would say its pretty rare that you’ve got neighboring towns competing for a state championship in the same sport on the same day like this.”
Costello gives tribute to his past mentors as well as Rothe. But his main tie was to Nimblett, as he was on his staff for nine years. Nimblett fought a constant uphill battle at Alvirne, his best two years going 5-5 and he made the playoffs once in nine seasons, most of which were in the old Division II and one year in the old Division III.
“Coach Nimbs, I think, is going to go down as one of the most underrated coaches in New Hampshire history,” Costello said, “coaching at Alvirne for as long as he did. He was just never able to get the class of kids that could compete a t that Division II level, back in the day when they had the Exeters and the BGs (Bishop Guertins). But if you look at the program itself, and what he accomplished, it’s pretty impressive.
“There’s three or four players that played at Alvirne that are coaches on both staffs. It’s really a tribute to Coach Nimblett.”
The two have taught together at an alternative school, first in Chelmsford, Mass.and now at Billerica, Mass., Valley Collaborative, and now, as that school’s assistant principal, Costello is actually Nimblett’s boss. How things go, right?
And then, he worked as a fellow assistant with Rothe.
“It’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t like Tarke Rothe, and I think he gets the most out of the kids,” Costello said, “because he is such a likeable person and will always put kids first. Nowadays I think having that player-coach relationship is one of the more important factors. And he has the players.”
Alvirne finally got it right, getting a coach in the building as well as moving down to the current Division II after five years of virtual captivity in the revamped Division I. Former Broncos coach Tim Walsh did get his team into the playoffs in 2014, and they were a half away from winning the West Conference title but fell to Guertin in the conference championship game.
Campbell, meanwhile, with an enrollment of about 550, is one of if not the lowest in Division III, if you factor in the co-op teams. But the Cougars have grabbed two titles in the previous four seasons, and are going for another.
Alvirne, of course, hasn’t had that success, now playing in its first football championship game, vs. perrenial power Plymouth that will start about an hour after Costello’s Cougars face Monadnock.
Alvirne and Campbell football. In a lot of ways, they go together in all kinds of November 2018 weather.
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK.email@example.com