One draws up a defense that spearheaded a run through the Class C South playoffs last season. The other orchestrates one that has been the nastiest bunch in the Pine Tree Conference this fall.

When the Gardiner and Cony football teams meet for the 141st time on Friday, they’ll do so while boasting defensive coordinators that have made names for themselves as two of the brightest minds in the game. Running backs have learned to expect a pounding when going up against Patrick Munzing’s Tigers. And quarterbacks have grown to fear facing Brandon Terrill’s Rams.

“It’s kind of half like poker and half like chess,” Terrill said. “Being a ‘D’ coordinator is half like playing poker and playing the percentages, and half deploying your troops on the right side of the board.”

Munzing said he enjoys the challenge as well, both of drawing up schemes and then figuring out how to place his players within it.

“Being a good coach is being able to get the most out of your kids,” he said. “Even if you have the best scheme and you think you can run this because someone else had success with it, it’s what best fits your guys.”

It’s a test they’ve been acing of late. With Terrill calling the plays, Cony has allowed 8.8 points per game, the best figure in Class B North and the second best in all of Class B. Gardiner’s defense under Munzing has been less consistent this season, but it has shown flashes of being the unit that allowed 21 points over the three games leading up to the C South championship game.

They help coach the longest-running adversaries in the state, but there’s more that binds Munzing and Terrill than separates them. Both are from football families, and have taken a tactical approach to the game since their childhoods. Both have preached speed and aggression with their steadily improving defenses. Both are under 40, with plenty of miles left in their football roads — and are happy to be where they’re at right now, turning in one game plan after another that impresses his head coach.

“His knowledge and love for the game of football is second to none in comparison,” Gardiner coach Joe White said. “He just absorbs film for hours, and he’s able to relay that to the kids in terms that are manageable.”

“Brandon’s been outstanding,” Cony’s B.L. Lippert said. “He’s a really sharp guy, and every year I give him a little more leeway to do what he wants.”

For Munzing, the path to coaching began early. His father, Rob, was the Gardiner head coach from 1986-1999, and his brothers Andy and Nate both went on to play college football. Patrick himself played at Maine after three years at Gardiner, and quickly felt the pull of the sideline after his playing days were over.

“I remember having conversations with (former) coach (Matt) Brown on my front porch on Saturdays after the games,” he said. “The two of us would sit there for an hour on my porch and go over all their stuff. And that was back in high school.”

Munzing became a JV coach at Gardiner, then was running the offense for the varsity team in 2015 under first-year coach White. Drawn more to defense, Munzing pitched a swap in responsibilities.

“I’ve always been a defensive guy,” he said. “I was like ‘Hey, I’ve got this defensive thing. What do you think?’ And he was like ‘Yeah, why don’t we switch that?’ ”

The Tigers struggled in Munzing’s first year but found a rhythm last year, turning into a physical unit that slowed running and passing attacks alike. Munzing kept things simple, knowing his best defense was one that was reacting while moving forward rather than spending time thinking and standing still.

“We tell them all the time, ‘If you think, you stink.’ Don’t think, just play fast. And if they can play fast and they can play downhill, that’s what it is,” he said. “We are now in a position where guys know what they’re doing. … It gets easy for me, because I can call something really simple and they’re already making three or four different checks.”

White said Munzing’s impact on the team has been clear.

“He brings a lot of the college game into what we do,” White said. “He watches more football than anyone that I know, and he can talk circles around me. It’s just really nice to see what he’s done.”

Terrill played at Orono from 1998-2001, and gained an interest in the strategic side of football along with his older brother Barry, currently the head coach at Washington Academy. After coaching at Orono, Terrill took an English teaching job at Hall-Dale, joined the Cony staff in 2013 and became the defensive coordinator the next year.

It didn’t go too well.

“I was pretty raw as a ‘D’ coordinator then, didn’t really know what I was doing,” he said. “But I just tried to learn as much as I could.”

The Rams took a step forward last year, turning into one of the PTC’s best units, due in part to Terrill using the first three seasons as a learning experience.

“I think one major lesson I learned early on is I prefer speed over size on defense,” he said. “I used to think early on you could put five or six really big guys up front … but I learned pretty quickly that the limited mobility of those big guys can be a detriment rather than a positive.”

Cony’s defense now reflects that tenet, with Nic and Jake Mills leading a relentless defensive line, Matt and Mike Wozniak anchoring an athletic linebacking corps and Reed Hopkins serving as the linchpin of a ballhawking secondary.

“We have all three levels of the defense doing something on every play,” he said. “Up front we might do a stunt, in the middle level we’ll have a blitz on and in the third level, we’ll get to the point where we’ll show one coverage and then execute a different coverage post-snap.

“We’re able to do a lot of stuff, and they’re able to internalize it and get lined up in the right spot and still play fast.”

It’s been working so far.

“He watches just as much film, but he’s gotten really good at synthesizing what he sees into really simple points for our kids,” Lippert said. “It’s definitely a reflection of his ability to (work with) the talent we’ve had.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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