Brookfield two-way lineman,
teammates take on Norwayne again
By John Bassetti
Gary Hiner remembers getting knocked out of the playoffs last year and it doesn’t sit well with Brookfield’s 6-foot-1, 285-pound lineman.
“We all have a bad taste in our mouths, but we’ve tried to stay focused every week and take one game at a time,” he said of the deliberate process of returning to the Division IV playoffs since losing to Creston Norwayne, 42-7, last November.
Now that the 13th game has arrived, the anticipation is reaching a climax. Brookfield and Norwayne will meet again Friday, this time in a regional final.
“We can’t wait for this,” Hiner said. “It’s something we’ve all looked forward to since last year. It’s a very big game.”
Hiner started both ways in the game as a junior. Now the senior is back as left tackle and defensive lineman.
His fumble recovery in last week’s win over Manchester helped Brookfield reach this stage.
“He played well on both sides,” Brookfield coach Randy Clark said of Hiner. “Defensively, he plugged up a lot of holes and the fumble recovery [which led to a touchdown] was big.”
Hiner plays alongside left guard David Jamieson. The Warriors’ other starting linemen are center Eric Martin, right guard Adam Gann and right tackle Eric Kusky.
What sticks out in Hiner’s mind about his time in the trenches in the Norwayne game?
“They were a lot quicker than what we expected, so, in the offseason, we all worked on being an explosive unit at the line of scrimmage,” he said. “We’re excited for this game because we feel more confident that we could dominate up front.”
A key player, Adam Wallace, is gone.
“He was a big playmaker,” Hiner said of Norwayne’s now-graduated quarterback and linebacker. “We can’t have our heads down like we did when they first scored last year. We’ve got to stay positive and play as a unit. I think it’s going to be a different situation this year.”
Hiner’s blocking includes numerous pancakes. He also has 50 tackles and four sacks on defense.
“We’re a smashmouth Power-I team that loves to run the ball,” he said of Brookfield’s offensive preference.
Others making room for leading rusher Ryan Mosora are upback Derek Sulick and fullback Joe Clark.
Hiner’s defensive line company includes fellow tackle Jamieson and ends Ron Kirila and Jake Goodworth. Clark also rotates with Hiner and Jamieson.
To deal Norwayne a blow like it was dealt, Brookfield needs to get penetration on the defensive line, with backup and coverage from inside linebackers Jimmy Quinlan and Tyler Miller to fill the gaps, outside linebacker Sulick and defensive backs Jeremy Quinlan, Mosora, Collin Harkulich, Tyler Hailey and R.J. Leon.
“If we do that, we should be fine,” Hiner said.
Jamieson also had something to say about meeting Norwayne again: “All I remember is that, about 12 months ago, we played them and it’s actually a dream come true. We get our second chance at them. We’ve been waiting for them.”