By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
They will be on opposite sidelines as head coaches Friday night, but Milton coach George Goodwin and his Central Columbia counterpart, Jason Hippenstiel, also met on the gridiron in the late 1980s.
Hippenstiel’s 3-0 Blue Jays visit the once-beaten Black Panthers in a Heartland Athletic Conference crossover game with District 4 points in both Class AAA and AA on the line.
“George was a great fullback on a very good Milton team,” Hippenstiel. “That team had a ton of talent, including George, Tris West and (Joe) Vargo.”
He said Goodwin was a big, physical runner.
Goodwin remembers Hippenstiel, a two-way lineman, as a good player and said those games “were always a dogfight, and I expect it to be one this week, too.”
The Black Panthers (2-1) have won two in a row since losing their opener versus still unbeaten Danville.
“George is doing a great job at Milton. He has the kids playing hard and believing,” Hippenstiel said.
The Central coach, who has led a resurgence in the Blue Jays’ program in his second tenure at the school, said he likes the play of the Black Panthers’ offensive line, quarterback Brady Chappell and the running backs (Jayson English, Jarrod Fogelmann and Josh Brown).
“They were certainly hitting on all cylinders versus Mifflinburg last week,” he said.
Hippenstiel said what concerns him the most is how efficient the Black Panthers have been on offense in both the run and the pass.
“Against Warrior Run, Chappell was on the money in the passing game and last week (against Mifflinburg), multiple backs had a great game,” he said, adding “Only giving up one touchdown each the past two weeks means they are playing very good team defense also.”
Goodwin said, “(The Blue Jays) are a heck of a ballclub. After watching them on film, I believe they (have) probably one of the best receiving corps you’re going to see throughout the year.”
Goodwin said Central’s 6-foot-5, 202-pound senior wide receiver, Dylan Hine, is one of the fastest receivers around and it is going to be tough to match up with them.
He said the key will be for the Black Panthers not to let the Blue Jays dictate what his team is going to do on defense.
“Obviously we have to adjust and put one of our better defensive backs on (Hine), but the quarterback (senior Jordan Thivierge) can run, so we can’t just double (Hine), and expect not to get hurt. And they have a decent running game as well. They’re pretty balanced.”
Hine has caught eight passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns, but senior wideout Jarrod Flick has nine grabs for 129 yards and 4 scores. Thivierge has rushed for 108 yards and passed for 472 and 4 TDs.
“A lot of times they will drop back and want to throw the ball but see that nothing is open and the quarterback, who is a quick kid and agile, will tuck and run,” said Goodwin. “He makes the right reads and he is shifty. We just have to play assignment football.”
Both teams showed in the second half of last season that they were turning the corner. Goodwin said, “Coach Hippenstiel is one of the better coaches in the area. I can’t say enough good things about him. He has got them going in the right direction and you could see that coming the past two years.
Hippenstiel is happy to be 3-0, but said, “We are never completely satisfied. We can always be more consistent on both sides of the ball.”
He said last week the Blue Jays did not have good night in the passing game, so that needs to improve.
But he is happy with how the team has been able to run the ball and needs that to continue.
“I expect this to be a great game to renew an old rivalry between these schools.”