Millikin Football To Open Season Against Greenville

Photo+courtesy+of+Kevin+Krows%2FMillikin+University

Kevin Krows

Photo courtesy of Kevin Krows/Millikin University

Caleb Buehrle, Sports Editor

The Millikin Big Blue football team is set to open their season this Saturday, September 3rd, when they host the Greenville University Panthers.

A Fresh Start

The Big Blue is looking to make the most of a fresh start under a new head coach in former defensive coordinator Carlton Hall. The entire coaching staff was revamped in the offseason, besides returning offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Patrick Allgeier, who is in his 26th season at Millikin. Coach Hall takes over with quite the resume; after a playing career at Vanderbilt in which he was an All-SEC caliber linebacker and led the prestigious conference in tackles in his senior season in 1998, he signed a free agent contract with the then-San Diego Chargers that same year.

Following his playing days, Hall has accrued a wealth of coaching knowledge, bringing his skills to players at schools across the country. Throughout all levels of the collegiate game (NAIA, DIII, DII, DI), including stops at major DI programs such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of Houston. Before coming to Millikin in 2020, his most recent position was as linebackers coach at Southern Oregon University, where, in just his first season, he coached 3 First-Team All-Conference linebackers.

The new assistant coaches are DC Bryan Sander and Jonathan Burrell, who join the Big Blue after coming from Southern Oregon’s staff, just as Hall did in 2020. Also among the newcomers is WR/TE coach EJ Shelby, an Air Force veteran, and former 2-sport athlete during his playing days, who has coached since 2015. Dion Wiggins takes over as the new OC after spending the last 20 years coaching football between the high school and college ranks, including at Methodist University, Macalester College, and Minnesota-Duluth. Rounding out the staff is Joshua Fisher, who joins the staff after spending time as an undergraduate assistant at Quincy University.

Young Team

Among the changes 2022 will bring for the Millikin football team, a new name under center will lead the offense. With the graduation of former quarterback Cal Pohrte, sophomore Aidan Lombardo will take the reins after backing up Pohrte last season. In limited action in 2021, Lombardo completed 5 of 12 passes for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding in 34 rushing yards on 13 attempts.

At running back, the Big Blue will run out a trio of sophomores in Tevin Lewis-Johnson, Matthew Salazar, and Ean Haggerty. Behind these 3, Millikin also rosters 6 freshman running backs.

Some new faces will also head the offensive line after the departures of veterans such as Alex Vogt, Donrico Farmer, Brandt Williamson, and Sauvignon Hayes. Returning to anchor, the units are Carlos Foster and Eli Hartfield.

The defense, on the other hand, has a few more returners than the offense does, including Alexander Perkins, the 5th-year senior who forced 3 fumbles in 2021 and has tallied 16.5 TFL’s over his career. Fellow 5th-year senior Kendall Dehority also returns, as well as senior Josh Grant (25 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT in 2021), and junior Victor Teodoro (27 tackles, 2 INT in 2021). Maybe the biggest impact returner is senior Quinton Miller. The Houston, Texas native registered 9.5 TFL’s in 2021, including 2 sacks, as well as 47 total tackles.

 

A Look at Greenville

The Greenville Panthers beat Millikin last year in a game that, at the time, looked like an upset. The Big Blue traveled to Greenville and lost to the Panthers by a score of 37-33 in a game that turned out to be a modern-day mud bowl.

For Millikin, the game would become a microcosm of the season to come. Millikin outgained the Panthers in both rushing and receiving yards, however 4 Big Blue turnovers sunk Millikin’s ship, and they returned home 0-1. The win would spark Greenville to an 8-win season, including a trip to the NCAA tournament after winning the SLIAC (St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).

The Panthers are looking to continue the momentum built by recent success, including a 2019 season in which they went 8-3, which now looks more like a turning point in the program’s trajectory than the outlier it might have looked like a year ago.

Returning for the Panthers is senior running back Paul Garrett. The Alabama native averaged north of 150 yards per game on the ground and totaled just shy of 1700 on the season, tacking on 21 touchdowns. Adrian Hinton will also return to the same position after a 2021 season in which he ran for 533 yards in 11 games, scoring 4 touchdowns.