New Coaches Gear Up for NRHS Sports

Published in the September 5, 2007 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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Ken Tucker was named Nashoba Regional's interim head football coach less than a month before practices were to begin. Leah Sutton spent most of her summer figuring out how to start a girls' volleyball program from scratch. It's hard to say which head coach had the greater challenge.

And with the football team kicking off at Westboro on Saturday and volleyball debuting at Marlboro on Monday, both coaches are scrambling a bit to get their teams game-ready.

“It's been a bit chaotic,” said Tucker, who as principal of Sawyer Middle School in Bolton has been doubly busy in recent weeks.

As if that weren't enough to worry about, Tucker has also had to deal with the loss of his starting running back. Bobby Lombardo, a senior two-way captain and last season's leading rusher, was involved in a motorcycle accident on August 22—the first day of practice—and will miss the season with a fractured pelvis. Senior Alex Warila will likely start at running back in the season opener, Tucker said.

The new head coach is encouraged, however, by the conditioning work that many players have done over the summer, particularly those involved in the school's new “Bigger Faster Stronger” weight training program. The extra time in the gym should improve players' durability, Tucker said.

“In a lot of games last year, we felt that others were bigger and stronger than we were,” he said. “It wears you down.”

To be sure, Tucker is eminently qualified to be the team's head coach; he's done it before. Tucker served as the Chieftains' head football coach from 1983 to 2001, compiling a record of 126-75-1 and winning six league titles during that time. Feeling a need to spend more time at Sawyer and with his family, Tucker sat out the 2002 season but returned to assist new head coach John Beary in recent seasons, primarily working with the running backs and defense.

The coaching staff knew that Beary had been seeking a full-time teaching position, so it wasn't entirely a surprise when Beary resigned in late July to accept a job at Narragansett High, where he will also be an assistant football coach. And athletic director Tom O'Brien, who had just finished hiring four new head coaches (Sutton, field hockey coach Jaime Mariani, girls' lacrosse coach Laurie Griffin, and girls' basketball coach Gary Kozloski), couldn't have been happier to fill the football vacancy by promoting a proven winner from the assistant ranks.

“It threw a little bit of a wrench into things, coming right before the season,” O'Brien said. “But we're very fortunate to have had someone with Ken's experience and credentials already on our staff.”

Sutton brings a very different set of credentials to the girls' volleyball program, which will compete at the junior varsity level this season and add a varsity team next season. Although she has no coaching experience, Sutton was a four-year varsity player while at Germantown High School in Tennessee, and also played on a club team during that time.

Now in her fourth year as an art teacher at Nashoba Regional, she's looking forward to jump-starting a new Chieftain sport that attracted 22 prospective players to its inaugural try-outs. The 15 girls who made the roster will enjoy brand-new uniforms, knee pads, volleyballs and nets with poles anchored in brand-new holes in the gym floor.

Sutton is toying with the idea of implementing a system that involves a libero, or designated back-row specialist, but with just two practices under their belts prior to Labor Day weekend, she hadn't yet assigned players specific roles.

“I just wanted to make sure they understood the game and could react to the ball in any situation,” she said. “But it's amazing how much they've improved already. I'm really impressed.”

Schedules for all NRHS fall sports are available at

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239