AUGUSTA — There is always a game within every football game that happens on opposing sidelines.

A sort of chess match, if you will, filled with moves and countermoves from rival coaches. That was no different heading into the annual meeting between Cony and Gardiner high schools on October 27, 2000 when a pair of first-year coaches — Matt Brown for Gardiner and Tom Hinds for Cony — met for what would be the 122nd installment of the long-storied rivalry.

In the weeks leading up to the game, the Rams — who were 4-3 at the time — had debuted a new wrinkle in Hinds’ double wing offense.

“They had run a criss-cross counter play the last three games. They had run it the first or second play of the game and scored,” Brown, who coached the Tigers until 2007, said by phone Tuesday. “We were going to get ready for that so they put in a criss-cross, counter flea flicker and threw a touchdown pass to Sean Brawn on the very first play of the game.”

The score set Cony up for a 31-14 win over the Tigers, who went 0-8 that season. Both coaches said — as many have before and after — that there was something different about those games when the Rams and Tigers lined up against each other, regardless of record that season.

Brown knew the history well having played for the Tigers from 1982-85. Hinds had coaching experience at Boothbay and Waterville prior to taking over Cony, but his family has deep roots in Gardiner football.

“My grandfather’s brother was Charlie Hinds and he coached at Gardiner for 15-20 years (head coach from 1927-33 and in 1934). My grandfather played for Gardiner and his four sons — including my dad — did too,” said Hinds, who is currently the wellness department head at Cony. “I knew the whole Gardiner-Cony thing ever since I was born. No one had to say a word to me. I just felt it.”

That first meeting was more notable than just the trick play, though. It marked the first time since 1936 and only the third time since 1920 that both Cony and Gardiner had new head football coaches in the same season.

“Tom did a great job when he was up there and it was always tough getting ready for him,” said Brown, who has since moved on from coaching high school football and is in his 10th year working security at the Alfond Center for Cancer Care in Augusta. “Whatever side that you’re on, it’s always difficult getting ready for the other side.”

Fittingly enough, two new former players are set to roam the sidelines of a Cony-Gardiner game as head coaches some 15 years later when the two teams meet Friday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Field.

Like his predecessor, Robby Vachon — who took over for Hinds in 2007 — first-year Cony head coach B.L. Lippert is a former player and served as the team’s quarterback under Ralph Peterson when Hinds was the Rams’ offensive coordinator from 1998-99. Lippert’s father, Bob, has also been an assistant coach with the Rams for 28 years — with a sabbatical when B.L. played for Colby College.

“I played for Coach Hinds and I have a lot of respect for Matt Brown,” said the younger Lippert, who spent 10 years as an assistant prior to this season. “They’re two really good coaches and both had nice runs in their tenures of their respective programs. Hopefully the same is true for (first-year Gardiner) Coach (Joe) White and myself.”

White, who played for Rob Munzing at Gardiner in the early- to mid-1990s, has strong familial ties to the rivalry also in addition to being a former assistant with the team. His father, Jon, was a co-captain in 1967 and went on to coach at both Cony and Gardiner, while White’s grandfather, Franny Whalen, was a standout for the Tigers in the early 1940s.

“It even goes back further. There’s a picture of my great-grandfather (Guy Hathaway) in the main office from the 1903 (Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference) champs,” White said. “It goes back over 100 years, my relatives, and it’s a big deal.

“…It’s a real special thing to be a part of because the connections that you make to it and the stories that you retell over and again.”

White distinctly remembers the game in 1994, a 9-6 win for the Tigers.

“Every Cony-Gardiner game I played in was a wet, sopping mess. We won 9-6 in ’94 and it was a monsoon. You couldn’t see the numbers on the jerseys. We won on a goal-line stand,” White said. “I could tell you everybody that was on the field with me, you know, one of those deals and you just remember every little part of that game more than any other game as a player and as a coach for sure.

“Even as an assistant I remember the last couple years and they haven’t been pretty. They haven’t faired well for us but in due time.”

Cony has won the past three meetings between the two schools — the last two by a combined score of 117-14 — and leads the all-time series 70-57-10. As one would expect, though, each team has enjoyed their runs of dominance over the decades as the rivalry has endured its ebbs and flows.

“Things have changed so much, but Gardiner and Cony keep chugging along,” Brown said. “It’s nice to have been a part of that.”

Friday night Lippert, White and a host of high schoolers will etch their own mark in history.

Who knows, maybe even a criss-cross, counter flea flicker will make an appearance?

“Those are the sort of things that can pop up in the Cony-Gardiner game,” Brown said.

Evan Crawley — 621-5640

[email protected]

Twitter: @Evan_Crawley

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