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Hilvert glad to be back in D-III

More news about: Baldwin Wallace
Jim Hilvert holding a game ball from the 2017 season opener
Baldwin Wallace athletics photo

 

Jake Hudson
Jake Hudson is back for his second season as Baldwin Wallace's starting quarterback.
Baldwin Wallace athletics file photo

By Joe Sager
D3sports.com

Success seems to follow Jim Hilvert wherever he goes.

Baldwin Wallace is excited about that.

The veteran head coach returned to the college ranks with the Yellow Jackets this year. He spent the past two years at Cincinnati-area powerhouse La Salle High School. He was head coach at Thomas More from 2007-15.

“It’s great. The transition has been easy. The kids have been open to change. They welcomed it with open arms,” he said. “Through the offseason, spring football and camp, everything’s been good. The guys have worked hard and really taken a value in what we’re doing offensively, defensively and on special teams.

“Going to Baldwin Wallace, with its rich tradition and playing in the OAC, which I think is the best league in country, has been great. I believe we have a shot at winning a national championship. That’s our goal as a program.”

Hilvert amassed a 67-19 record during his run at Thomas More. The Saints won six Presidents’ Athletic Conference crowns as well. He left for the job at La Salle and produced more results. The Lancers went 26-4 in his two years and claimed back-to-back Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state crowns.

“I definitely had to adjust when I went to La Salle. You’re dealing with 14- to 17-year-old young men, which is different. I think it also made me a better football coach; it made me be a better teacher,” Hilvert said. “Being at La Salle and having the success we did, the great football culture, the great guys and kids made it very difficult to leave. But, I think Baldwin Wallace is one of the top jobs out there. It’s in a great location and the people who come here will get a great education and have a legit shot of winning a national championship. 

“It’s been great to get back to the college level. I really like dealing with 18- to 23-year-old men and watching them get their degrees and move on to the real world. That’s kind of my niche.”

Coaching changes bring uncertainty. The Yellow Jackets embraced this one, though.

“Coach’s resume is spectacular. Some of us were able to meet with some of the potential coaches and I could tell Coach Hilvert would be the guy,” junior quarterback Jake Hudson said. “He does bring that credibility so other guys can buy in right away. It’s awesome to see the older guys buy in. It helps that he has this whole new energy he brings. Everyone is flying around. We have the whole mindset of the power of one – one team, one family. It’s a great feeling to have. We all know we’re all together and it’ll work out in the long run.”

Hilvert has brought some electricity to a squad that finished 3-7 last year. The intensity of the team’s approach has amplified.

“It’s a blast. It’s awesome to know we have a new year and a new outlook on the whole program,” Hudson said. “We’re having a blast in practice. We have the attitude that we’ll have a great day every day and everyone is bouncing around and flying around. It makes it so much easier to practice and prepare when you know everyone is putting everything into it.”

The players insist the transition has been easy, too.

“I don’t think it was tough at all. It’s been fun being a leader and helping to get all the guys into a new groove,” senior running back Austin Smith said. “Coach Hilvert has been great. All the coaches have been great. I think we’ve done a really good job of staying focused. We know our first three games really mean a lot for our entire season. I think we’ve been paying close attention to that.”

The Yellow Jackets had to adjust to a new system quickly. They got off to a solid start with a 42-2 win at Defiance. After an off week, they get right into the OAC gauntlet with John Carroll and at Mount Union.

“We have to be on our A game at all times. We open conference play with potentially the top two teams in the OAC,” Hudson said. “It’s only going to make us better, though. I like it. Let’s take on the pressure right away. We’re going to be a smash-mouth team and going to be hard-nosed, so let’s face it right off the bat while we have the energy and potential.”

Baldwin Wallace lost five games by a touchdown or less last year. Three of those were decided by three points or less. Hilvert is looking to see how the team responds to the challenge this year.

“We have to be tough-minded individuals. Right off the bat, we start with some tough teams. Going on the road to start wasn’t easy and we play our archrival in the second game. It doesn’t get any easier after that,” he said. “We have to be able to handle adversity and be tough. Things are not going to go right at times. To beat teams like that, we have to be able to finish games. We’re not that far away. I think our kids are hungry.”

Early start

Allegheny, Thiel and Trine all opened their seasons on an early note with Thursday games.

Allegheny produced a 38-6 win at Thiel in an NCAC-PAC matchup. Logan Lee tossed four touchdowns for the Gators in the program’s first-ever Thursday night contest.

Trine built a 21-6 lead and posted a shutout in the second half to earn the 35-12 triumph over Manchester.

Rematch

It’s not often you get to play the same team two games in a row. It happened for John Carroll, though. The Blue Streaks fell to UW-Oshkosh in last year’s national semifinals, 10-3. The two teams met to open this regular season, too. The Titans prevailed, 23-17, as well.

The game was the teams’ third meeting in a year. UW-Oshkosh won the 2016 season opener, 33-14.

Saturday’s game was the debut of John Carroll coach Rick Finotti, who took over after Tom Arth left for Tennessee-Chattanooga. Finotti, a successful high school coach in the Cleveland area, spent the past two seasons on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at Michigan.

Upset alert

Washington & Jefferson knocked off No. 23 St. John Fisher, 37-27. The Presidents overcame a 14-0 deficit to post the home victory.

Sophomore running back Jordan West led the way with 154 yards and two touchdowns. Alex Rowse did well in his first start at quarterback. The senior threw for 259 yards and two scores. All-American wide receiver Jesse Zubik had four catches and a touchdown.

Fellow PAC member Westminster nearly pulled off a second upset, but fell to Wittenberg, 20-14, at home.

The defending NCAC champs did not trail in the game. The Tigers held on as the hosts drove the 11 with 36 seconds to go, but failed to connect on two passes on third and fourth down.

In the polls

No. 2 Mount Union (1-0) shut out N.C. Wesleyan, 58-0. The Purple Raiders are off this week, but return to action Sept. 16 at Marietta to open OAC play.

No. 9 John Carroll (0-1) fell to No. 3 UW-Oshkosh, 23-17, and dropped a spot in the poll. The Blue Streaks are off this week and return action Sept. 16 against OAC rival Baldwin Wallace.

No. 17 Wittenberg (1-0) beat Westminster on the road, 20-14, and slipped a spot. The Tigers are off this week and open NCAC action Sept. 16 against Oberlin.

No. 18 Thomas More (1-0) outlasted Franklin, 47-37, and moved up a spot in the poll. The Saints return to action this Saturday against Bridgewater.

No. 19 Case Western Reserve (1-0) moved up from No. 22 after beating Chicago, 34-14. The Spartans are off this week. They return to action next Saturday against Grove City.

No. 23 Washington & Jefferson (1-0) entered the Top 25 after it knocked off St. John Fisher, 27-27. The Presidents hit the road to take on Grove City this weekend.

Joe Sager

Joe Sager is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. He has written about sports since 1996 for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He first covered D-III football in 2000 with the New Castle (Pa.) News.

2012-14 columnist: Brian Lester
2011 columnist: Dean Jackson
2007-10 columnist: Matt Florjancic

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