By Tris Wykes
Octopus Athletics

LEBANON – Cole Shambo has yet to play a down for Lebanon High’s football team, but it seems clear he’ll be an impact player for the Raiders this autumn.

Randy Shambo, left, stands with fellow Lebanon High football assistant coach Todd Bircher during the Raiders’ Sept. 2 practice. Shambo’s son, Cole, is a junior running back and linebacker who is transferring from Hartford to Lebanon to play this fall.

A Hartland resident who started at running back and linebacker for Hartford last year, Shambo and his father, Randy, set the wheels for his transfer turning when Vermont announced last month it wouldn’t allow high schools to play tackle football.

The Green Mountain State will instead use a 7-on-7 non-contact format similar to that used during summer passing-league competition. Hartland offers its students open choice in school enrollment and they wind up at the likes of Hartford, Hanover, Windsor and Lebanon, so Shambo’s path was unimpeded.

Vermont’s football decision, combined with some dissatisfaction from the Shambos with the Hurricanes program, sent them in the direction of 14th-year Lebanon coach Chris Childs, who was in his early 20s when he coached Randy Shambo at Windsor. The pair helped the Yellowjackets win a 1999 state title and remained friends.

Suddenly, Lebanon possesses a strong candidate to replace feature back Wade Rainey, who graduated last spring after helping the Raiders go 10-2 and reach the 2019 NHIAA Division III title game.

“It’s a match made in heaven and Cole’s done a good job so far,” said Childs, whose son, C.J., is also a Lebanon junior. “He’s athletic and runs very low to the ground, which will make him tough to tackle. I watched him on film and he fights for every inch of yardage.

“The way he carries himself and the way he runs, he kind of reminds us of (2011 Lebanon graduate) Cody Patch and that’s high praise.”

Indeed, for Patch led the Raiders to a state title before playing at Dartmouth College and is considered the gold standard for hard-nosed attitude in his former program. Shambo, who said he’s 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, isn’t as physically imposing as Patch but he might be faster and he’s spent many a day laboring for his father, a local stone mason.

Masons use hydraulic equipment for part of their work, but much of the toil comes down to repetitive, brute strength, and Cole Shambo’s defined physique allows him to work alongside grown men. They spend long days lifting, turning and chiseling stones to fit into buildings and walls.

Cole Shambo, left, cheers on Lebanon High teammates competing in a relay-race drill during practice on Sept. 2. Shambo, a junior running back and linebacker, is transferring from Hartford.

It’s a trade that dates to the beginning of civilization and the kind of physical activity on which Randy Shambo, a onetime electrician, said his son thrives. Gridiron effort and contact fills a similar need, the father noted.

“Without football, I’d be worried he’d slip into depression,” said Randy Shambo, who’s joined Lebanon’s coaching staff. “I wasn’t going to leave him at Hartford to play one-hand touch. He loves football and he has the goal to play in college and this is a step in that direction.”

Cole Shambo felt he brought a substantial work ethic every day with Hartford but said he was disappointed in the number of carries he got last season for a 4-5 team.

“I got a lot of playing time for someone my age, but I didn’t get a fair shot on offense,” Shambo said. “It just wasn’t the program for me, so when I left, I didn’t have a lot of people I felt I was being torn away from.”

Said Hartford athletic director Jeff Moreno in a text: “We wish him the best and we’re sorry it didn’t work out. Coach Childs got a good football player.”

Childs said he’s surprised he hasn’t heard of other Vermont players transferring to New Hampshire schools. But he’s thrilled he got the only one of which he knows.

“You don’t have to watch him move around very much to guess that he’s a pretty good football player,” the coach said. “He’s going to blend right in.”

Notes: Lebanon has been moved up to Division II for the upcoming season but is likely to play foes based on proximity, not enrollment. Stevens, Hanover, Mascoma, Plymouth, Fall Mountain and Newport are on the docket, and word is that all New Hampshire teams that want to participate in the playoffs will be allowed in, regardless of record… Lebanon’s first game is tentatively slated to be Sept. 25 against Stevens… All Raiders fall sport athletes must complete an online health questionnaire and have their temperatures taken before they can begin practice. They don’t wear masks while practicing and keeping teenagers several feet apart can be a challenge. “It’s not just the age, it’s that when you talk to someone, your tendency is to move towards them,” noted Lebanon’s certified athletic trainer, Danza Rodrigues.

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