MADRID — December of 2015 was a difficult month for the communities of Madrid and Woodward-Granger.
On Dec. 2, junior Drew Jacobson collapsed at a W-G basketball practice and was taken by air ambulance to a Des Moines hospital. He passed five days later, and his funeral on Dec. 10 was attended by more than 1,000, with many Madrid students paying their respects.
The Tigers held a “Red-Out” when the two basketball teams met in Madrid a day later, in honor of Jacobson’s favorite color.
Just as the wounds were beginning to heal in Woodward-Granger, their arch rival was stunned with the news that Hall of Fame football coach Randy Hinkel had died of a heart attack on Dec. 20.
Hinkel was a legend in Madrid, having guided the Tigers to the 1991 state title and to seven runner-up finishes in his 29 years at the school. He was 261-58 with Madrid and 316-82 overall in 36 years on the sideline.
Steve Perkins was an assistant for Hinkel for 18 years and has the unenviable task of assuming the place once occupied by an icon.
“I am not replacing coach (Hinkel) because no one can,” Perkins said. “I am just the new coach at Madrid, that is all.”
W-G will wear a 58 sticker on their helmet this year in honor of Jacobson, giving two sidelines and two fan bases — who already need no excuse to be fired up when playing each other — even more reason to wear their hearts on their sleeves, at least for one night.
“It is just one more thing to motivate us,” said tailback and linebacker Tanner Vermaas, a classmate and close friend of Jacobson. “He was our teammate, and my best friend. We know he will be with us, and we will hear him yelling at us if we don’t do the right thing or it give it our all.”
“That was the thing with Drew,” junior lineman Joe Sturgeon said. “He blocked hard, tackled hard, ran hard and never complained. He would always be the first to chew you out if you weren’t going as hard as he was, but he was also the first to have your back and be supportive.”
Vermaas ran for 1,129 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, many of them behind the blocking of Jacobson.
“If I had a big run, he would be the first down the field to meet me, no matter how far,” he said. “I will be thinking of him, that is for sure.”
W-G head coach George Ashman said the team would dedicate the first game to Jacobson, but then move on.
“You cannot dwell on something like a personal loss the whole season or it will start to wear you down,” he explained. “We all loved Drew and we all want to honor him, but I know good and well he would not like it if we made a big fuss about him all year. I know that he would walk up to me and say ‘Coach, what are we doing? Play Hawk football’ and that is the best way we can honor him.”
An overflow crowd is expected in Madrid, with the non-district contest scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
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