The rivalry between the Thomas Worthington and Worthington Kilbourne high school football teams goes beyond the playing field.
This week in the halls at Thomas, Cardinals players have been trying to keep talk of their game Friday, Sept. 6, at Kilbourne to a minimum. That said, a few good-natured jabs may have been taken and received by math teacher Rodney Hopkins, an assistant coach for the Wolves who was an assistant at Thomas in 2007 and ’08.
Even though Kilbourne opened in 1991, the teams’ first meeting didn’t occur until 2008. The Wolves lead the series 4-1, including a 37-3 victory last season. The Cardinals’ lone win came in 2011, 21-20.
“There is a lot of crossover between the coaching staffs and the schools,” Thomas coach Scott Gordon said. “We’ve got four coaches who previously coached at Kilbourne. They have three coaches who formerly coached at Thomas, including Rodney Hopkins. We tell our kids to keep any playbooks or any game planning at home. No paperwork this week.”
Gordon is one of four members of the Thomas coaching staff who formerly served as an assistant at Kilbourne. The others are Mike Cottrill, Scott Cottrill and Chris Clifton, who also played at Kilbourne.
In addition to Hopkins, Kilbourne’s staff includes former Thomas coach Dan Sparks and former Cardinals assistant Tom Karns. Sparks was the head coach at Thomas from 2001-05.
“It’s safe to say that each of us knows more about our opponent this week than we know about any other opponent,” Gordon said.
“We have a kangaroo court session every Sunday and Rodney, or anyone else, needs to be wearing the right colors all week,” Kilbourne coach Vince Trombetti said. “They’re actually pretty good about that. When they step through the doors here, they’re all about wearing the royal blue and black.”
Thomas opened with a 33-7 win over Jonathan Alder on Aug. 30 and is looking to post consecutive wins for the first time since weeks nine and 10 in the 2011 season, when it finished 4-6.
The Cardinals forced eight turnovers, including six interceptions.
Cornerback Jalen Wells and safety John Lee each had two interceptions.
Kilbourne, meanwhile, is looking to bounce back from a 22-21 loss to Dublin Scioto in its opener Aug. 30, when the Irish rallied to score a touchdown and two-point conversion with 23.2 seconds remaining.
The Wolves had trouble hanging onto the ball, as they lost four of eight fumbles. Two of the turnovers — one on their own 35-yard line and one on their own 22 — set up Scioto’s first two touchdowns.
Gordon and Trombetti both believe that the battle between Kilbourne’s defensive front and Thomas’ offensive line could decide the outcome. The Cardinals’ line played a major role in running back Tony Harvard's performance against Jonathan Alder. Harvard rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries and threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Miller.
Kilbourne's defensive front, which consists of ends D.J. Freer and Mason Rigio and tackles Gavin Elifritz and Joe Schick, will look to close the running lanes and clear the way for linebackers Josh Happ and Taylor Wilson to penetrate the backfield.