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Lebanon lacrosse coach plans to return after battle with cancer

  • Rolls of artificial turf sit alongside the Hartford High School field hockey field on Sept. 23, 2019. Hurricanes athletic director Jeff Moreno said he hopes to have the rolls installed outside Barwood Arena next year. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Lebanon High boys lacrosse coach Rob Fett speaks to his team during a May 17, 2018, home game. Fett has returned to health after battling lung cancer last spring. (Tris Wykes - Valley News) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint » Purchase a reprint »

  • Aidan Yates, Lebanon High



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, October 06, 2019

LEBANON — The thought came to Rob Fett almost immediately upon learning in April that he had lung cancer: He couldn’t let the illness stop him from walking his oldest daughter, Amanda, down the aisle during her Sept. 27 wedding in Long Island, N.Y.

“I didn’t want to leave planet Earth without doing that, and I think it helped me,” said Fett, who missed what would have been his third season as Lebanon High’s boys lacrosse coach while undergoing surgery and rehabilitation. “One of my goals was to dance with the bride, and it was freaking unbelievable.”

Fett got that chance thanks to his indefatigable attitude, although his optimism was tested during the days after his surgery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Thanks to his doctors and nurses and his outstanding physical condition, however, the Grantham resident is back to running alongside his dog, a black Labrador named Herbie.

“No cancer showed up in my bloodwork or any radiological exam,” Fett said. “But the doctors can’t guarantee that it will be gone forever.”

Fett, 66, was running up to 3½ miles at a time during August before a hip ailment slowed him down. These days, he runs for about 15 minutes, walks for two or three, then runs again. His weight, which was 138 pounds when he was discharged from a Concord rehabilitation hospital in June, has risen to 163 pounds, and he’s back to regular work as a Lebanon High substitute teacher.

“I can’t tell you how exciting it was when I first walked back in,” said Fett, who moved to New Hampshire after a career in finance and management. “I did everything I could to look normal before I showed my face there, and the hugs and good wishes were terrific.”

Lebanon boys lacrosse was 2-12 last season while being outscored, 167-88. Thirty-one of those goals came in blowout victories over Stevens and Bishop Brady, and the Raiders graduated a dozen players from a program that’s historically struggled to draw numbers. The team is 27-87 during the last eight years and hasn’t had a winning season since 2012.

“Without a real feeder program, it’s a real challenge to produce a high-caliber team,” Fett said. “But I had a lot of time to think in the hospital, and I’m just happy to have a team to be with.”

Exactly how the Raiders coaching situation shakes out remains to be seen. Athletic director Mike Stone said in response to an emailed question about Fett’s future role that “Rob will be part of the coaching staff.” Fett said that staff also will include 2018 interim coach Nick Wood and interim assistant Cole Fowler, a one-time Sharon Academy head coach.

In the meantime, Fett is training to run a February half marathon in Orlando.

“I’d like to be running faster, but I will be soon,” he said.

Hartford field plans in limboas AstroTurf sits idle

Hartford High and its athletic booster club paid $10,000 to former Dartmouth College track coach Ken Weinbel in December 2017 to acquire 135 square feet of AstroTurf used in Dartmouth College’s Leverone Field House from 2001-13. There was talk at the time that the surface would make Wendall Barwood Arena a year-round athletic facility.

It hasn’t played out quite that way for two reasons. First, Hartford doesn’t have the specific tools necessary to easily zip the rolls of turf together, as does Dartmouth. Second, the arena floor was torn up this spring and summer so that new ice-making pipes could be installed and new boards and glass set in place.

“We didn’t know the team Dartmouth uses to lay (the turf) down wasn’t going to be accessible to us,” said Hartford athletic director Jeff Moreno. “It also had to sit flat for about three weeks after it was unrolled to get the bumps out. Dartmouth has stretchers that can do it in a day.”

So, although the turf was put into the arena and used with success during the spring and summer of 2018, it has been outside in rolls since the ice went in last season. At the moment, it’s stored between Highland Avenue and the Hurricanes’ field hockey field, but Moreno said the material can withstand the elements and will be used again.

The athletic director’s plan is to have the turf permanently installed on a spot of well-worn field between the arena and the high school’s fitness center. It could be cleared of snow and be of most benefit during March and April, when the region’s grass fields are often soggy.

“It was supposed to get done this summer, but we had a list of projects including the new field hockey field and the new football scoreboard and play clocks,” Moreno said. That first project included removing the old baseball field’s backstop and laying sod over its infield.

As for the arena, Moreno plans during the next two years to engineer funding in conjunction with the town recreation department for modern turf squares that interlock via Velcro and are made to fit inside the building’s hockey boards. He’s also determined to again bring before voters a bond for an artificial turf, multi-sport field and an all-weather track. A similar proposal several years ago was ill-conceived and voted down.

“The cost overrun on that was so tremendous,” Moreno said. “Let’s give the voters some actual, accurate numbers and see where they are on them.

“It’s important that we know what people want. Whether that’s a turf field or a track or nothing at all. If that’s their will, that’s the direction we’ll go.”

Another hockey standoutleaves Lebanon High

Lebanon High lost one of its best all-around athletes last month when junior Aidan Yates departed for Waterbury, Maine, and a junior hockey team there called the Twin City Lightning. He played soccer and hockey for the Raiders as a freshman and sophomore.

The Lightning, formed in April, are a U18 squad playing in the United States Premier Hockey League. That umbrella organization includes eight levels of age-based competition, with U18 being the fifth down the ladder and classified as Tier II juniors. Twin City plays in the American Division with foes from New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.

Yates is the only Lightning player not to have graduated high school and is a fourth-line wing for an 11-1-1 team first in its league. He is the youngest player on the roster, said his father, Plainfield resident Paul Yates, and has two goals and four assists while skating in every game.

Yates is the fourth standout to exit the Lebanon program during the past two school years. Brothers Nate and Trey Chickering are skating for Proctor Academy in Andover, N.H. Aaron Damren, the youngest of coach Jim Damren’s three sons, suits up for the Eastern League Premier’s Vermont Lumberjacks out of Burlington, alongside his older brother, Nate.

The Lumberjacks’ higher-level team, in the Eastern Hockey League, includes Hartford High graduate Ben Rouillard and former Hanover High skater Jensen Dodge.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.

Correction

Hartford High graduate Ben Rouillard and former Hanover  High skater Jensen Dodge are skating for the higher-level Vermont Lumberjacks team in the Eastern Hockey League. An earlier version of this story described the team for which they play.