Both were star players for the teams they now coach. Both went on to play at state colleges. Both made a conscious effort to return as educators and coach at their alma maters.
Jenkins, who graduated in 1996 and later went on to Minnesota State-Mankato, returned as an assistant coach and then took over the head coaching duties after PETER HAUGEN, himself a 1987 Washburn alum, resigned from coaching the Millers to lead Gustavus Adolphus.
Haugen had led Washburn to City Conference titles from 2001-2008.
Jenkins, who played for Haugen as an all-metro defensive back, has not missed a beat, leading the Millers to City titles from 2009-2012. Washburn will be seeking its 13th consecutive crown, the fifth straight since Jenkins became head coach.
Howell was a bruising fullback who earned all-metro honors playing for FLOYD SMALLER during the 1982 and ’83 seasons. After graduating in 1984, Howell accepted a football scholarship to St. Cloud State University. Upon completion of his playing career, he came back to assist Smaller, who coached at Central from 1976-2000.
Howell took over in 2000, always competing and coming close to a conference title (which Smaller had won in 1987 and ’88).
Howell’s hard work paid off 20 years later. In a crucial game in 2008 against City rival Johnson, Central trailed 18-6 with five seconds left. The Minutemen tied the game (yes, tied the game) and ended up achieving a 25-18 overtime victory against the defending champs.
Central won the City title a couple of weeks later and has dominated ever since. Howell, who has also coached the boys’ basketball team to conference titles in 2005 and 2008 (both shared with arch rival Johnson), is seeking his sixth consecutive conference crown as football coach (sharing the title with Como Park and Highland Park in 2009).
Both teams play each other on Saturday, September 21, at 2 pm at James S. Griffin Stadium behind Central High School.
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.