Coaching shuffle at Souhegan, North

The Souhegan High School athletic department settled some family business before heading into the annual winter break.

The school Friday announced the hiring of Robin Bowkett as its new football coach, replacing Mike Lochman, who resigned in December after four seasons on the job. Bowkett, a Souhegan alum, is a former Salvae Regina and St. Anselm College assistant who has spent the last five years as the coach of Lake Forest (Ill.) Academy, a private boarding school just outside

of Chicago.

In addition, the Sabers announced that former Nashua North boys lacrosse coach Keith Bertrand is their new head man beginning this spring. He replaces Brad Bishop, who resigned after four seasons to focus on his assistant coaching and admissions duties at Keene State.

And, to complete all the moving parts, Bertrand’s replacement at Nashua North is longtime Nashua Blast coach Rod Redman.

Bowkett, 34, beat out a field of 15 applicants, at least a half dozen who had head coaching experience, according to athletic director Dick Miller. But he was a logical choice as he is familiar with Souhegan having graduated from there in 2001 after playing four years of Saber football, quarterbacking the team his senior year. His wife Beth is also a Souhegan alum.

“This is somewhat of a dream job for me,” Bowkett said, adding his parents still live in Amherst. “I’m excited to get there and get rolling. Us football alums keep a close eye on that program. … Being the head coach at where I played is going to be great, and it was a chance to come home. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get back to family.”

Bowkett coached five years at Lake Forest, going 17-28, including 2-7 his final season. He is also currently the assistant dean of admissions at the school, which competed in the Chicago Catholic League, and was also working on his Masters in coaching education at Ohio University.

But the program faced declining numbers and is switching, in what will be its 125th year, to 8-man football next season.

“We played in a good league, but as you know, football is a numbers game,” Bowkett said, adding he would’ve taken the Souhegan job even if the move to 8-man wasn’t happening. “We were fortunate, though, to have some really good players.”

Indeed, it’s not as if the program was without talent or notoriety. Lake Forest, while Bowkett was there, had players move on to play at Division I schools such as Penn State, Iowa, and Stanford.

Bowkett plans on being back in the area during Lake Forest’s two-week break next month, and is expecting to meet with the Saber players then.

As for Bertrand, he leaves North after seven seasons, the best being 10-6 in 2014. However, he brought stability to the program, but living in Amherst the last 10 years or so, he said he always had an eye on the Souhegan program. He opted not to apply for the opening a few years ago, but this time he felt it was something he had to do.

“When I’d drive down the streets in Amherst, I’d see kids with sticks in their hands, or goals in their driveways,” he said. “Hands down it’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life. I’m so close to the kids at North, but I felt this was something I had to do.”

Redman, meanwhile, according to Nashua athletic director Lisa Gingras, was set to be a volunteer assistant under Bertrand at North before the move. He’s had two sons play in the Titans program.

“He’s coached a lot of the North kids, he’s very, very familiar with a lot of the kids in the program,” Gingras said. “He has a lot of connections. We felt Rod was the best choice to make this transition.”

“He’s very, very knowledgeable,” Bertrand said of Redman. “I’m happy he got the job, I can’t say enough good things about him. It should be a seamless transition.”