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Oxbow Football Coach Excited for New Journey

  • In preparation for the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, Vermont assistant coach Dan Nolan adjusts his projector while going over a coverage scheme during the classroom session before practice at Plymouth State College in Plymouth, N.H., on August 2, 2005. (Valley News - Caleb Raynor) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • In preparation for the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, Vermont assistant coach Dan Nolan, right, opens up his slide show and animation files on his laptop computer for a class of players on August 2, 2005. (Valley News - Caleb Raynor) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 3/29/2017 11:31:05 PM
Modified: 3/29/2017 11:31:07 PM

Bradford, Vt. — As he heads off from work to an Oxbow High football practice this fall, Dan Nolan can be certain of at least one thing: He’ll have miles to go before he sleeps.

In assuming the Olympians’ reins, Nolan returns to sideline coaching for the first time since a stint in West Texas a couple of years ago.

Nolan, 39, signed on with Oxbow earlier this month, with the hope of replicating the success he enjoyed during a six-year stint at Lyndon Institute before he headed west.

The hire also continues Oxbow’s link with the Northeast Kingdom. Besides the LI connection, Nolan lives in West Burke, Vt., and commutes to a teaching job at Hartford Middle School during the school year. The Olympians’ two previous head coaches, Sean Murphy and Mark Palmieri, both worked and lived in the St. Johnsbury, Vt., area and made long drives to coach the Oxbow program.

At least, Nolan noted this week, he’ll be able to hit workouts on the way home from school.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Nolan, whose Vermont gridiron CV includes assistant’s time at North Country prior to Lyndon and video work for Hartford High football coach (and fellow HMS teacher) Matt Trombly the past two years.

“I have coaches I plan to bring with me from my LI experience, guys I’ve known well and for a long time; I’m excited about that,” added Nolan, who’ll visit with Oxbow players for the first time today. “I look forward to meeting the players and having a chance to build a program that is very young, very different from (Lyndon).”

Murphy brought the O’s to the Vermont Principals Association Division III quarterfinals in back-to-back campaigns, falling at Woodstock in both cases. Last year’s team finished 3-7, and Murphy stepped down at season’s end to spend more time with his family.

Enter Nolan, who guided Lyndon to a 9-2 record and a D-II finals loss to Rice when he last roamed a Vermont sideline in 2013.

“He’s a very good leader; I see it in the way he is in our school,” Trombly said. “I haven’t seen him coach, but I see him around kids. Knowing his personality, he’ll do a real standup job for that program.”

An LI and University of Vermont graduate, Nolan assisted veteran coach Bob Davis at North Country, also working on Davis’ staff for the 2005 Vermont Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl team. Nolan took over for Dennis Sweet at his high school alma mater in 2008 and posted a 26-30 record over the next six autumns.

Success bracketed Nolan’s time with the Vikings. His first squad went 6-4 and reached the D-II semis. His last ended up a game short of Lyndon’s first state crown since 1997 in a 27-21 loss to Rice Memorial in the finals.

The following spring, Nolan accepted an invitation to try something different … and bigger. Moving to Texas oil country, Nolan joined the staff at Midland Lee High School, right in the heart of Friday Night Lights territory. It all was going well until Vermont real estate reality hit.

“It was a real thrill, but unfortunately, with real estate in the Northeast Kingdom, I couldn’t sell my home,” Nolan said. “I was financially in a position where I had to find a way to get back to Vermont to live in my house. I’m a social studies teacher by trade. I have a commute to Hartford from my house, albeit a long one, but I’m able to pay my mortgage. That’s a big thing for me.”

Nolan takes over a team that largely lived and died by the pass the last two seasons. When Oxbow lost run-throw quarterback threat Dametres Perry to an injury early last year, Noah Johnson filled in capably, but both are seniors. Prolific receiver Owen Pelletier — like Perry, a Rivendell Academy student playing for the O’s through the VPA’s member-to-member program — should return, but much of what Nolan inherits remains young.

Nolan favors flexbone option offenses, so Oxbow will need to develop an ample supply of running backs and linemen. He also likes a fast, attacking defense, “but you have to find the pieces to put together to do that.” Rivendell and Blue Mountain Union High have provided athletes in the past, and Thetford Academy could in the future.

“According to member-to-member rules, Oxbow is the catch-net area for every school that lays between Hartford and St. Johnsbury,” Nolan said.

“There were five from Thetford last year that went to Hartford and will hopefully be going to Oxbow (this fall). … My goal, and I hope to put this plan together soon, is to have a barnstorming tour around Upper Valley schools to find as many kids as possible. It’s a numbers game.

“At Lee, we had 2,500 kids in three grades in the high school, but we were constantly recruiting in the halls. We had 150 players, but that’s never enough for coaches. The more you have to choose from, the better you’re likely to be.”

Trombly is optimistic that Oxbow has made the right choice.

“He’s very knowledgeable in the game and, certainly, to bring that to a program like Oxbow is huge,” the Hartford coach said. “To have some knowledge and experience like he has, having been at Lyndon and his time in Texas … anytime a high school can get someone like that, it’s a plus.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at or 603-727-3226.

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