Injured sophomore back on top as a senior

 

Prep sceneJohn Kipper remembers how he felt after shattering a tibia and fibula in his right leg cost him his sophomore season as a member of the Academy of Holy Angels varsity football team.

“I was devastated,” the senior said. “It was hard not playing and being with my teammates and coaches. Very hard.”

John Kipper (Holy Angels) blocks a Bloomington Jefferson player during an extra-point conversion.
John Kipper (Holy Angels) blocks a Bloomington Jefferson player during an extra-point conversion.

Holy Angels Football Coach Jim Gunderson remembers when and how he felt about his player’s injury.

“It happened on the last play during a scrimmage,” he said of the injury. “It’s hard to see one of your players suffer through an injury, let alone a person like John,” he continued. “We were expecting him to make a significant contribution that season.”

John’s father, Minnesota State-Mankato track and field Hall-of-Famer Obie Kipper Jr., certainly remembers how he felt.

“You never want to see your child go through that,” he said. “But you learn from adversity. He’s been through a lot.”

The 5’-11” 220-pound young Kipper is enjoying an outstanding senior season, though he made it clear that it was not easy getting back to form.

“It was a long process,” he said. “I missed my sophomore year and came back a little too early my junior year and never got back to form.”

Now John Kipper — who plays three positions (running back, tight end, offensive and defensive lineman) — is one of the state’s top prospects with interests from North Dakota State University, Augustana College, Minnesota State-Mankato, Northwestern, and University of Minnesota among others.

In addition to that, Holy Angels, who was nowhere to be found in the preseason rankings, is sporting a 3-0 record and No. 2 state ranking in Class 2A after victories over DeLaSalle, Chanhassen and Bloomington Jefferson. More of the game against Jefferson in a minute.

“As a parent I’m enjoying the season,” Obie Kipper Jr. said. “Coach Gunderson and his staff have been doing a wonderful job building relationships with the players and parents.”

As for John Kipper, who wants to study environmental engineering in college, he’s busy balancing life as student-athlete. In addition to football, he’s also captain of the basketball team; currently taking advanced placement classes focusing on literature, government, statistics and physics; and recently got a 30 (36 being a perfect score) on his ACT test.

But of course, there was still a football game to be played.

Holy Angels scored first after senior defensive back Danny Hoffman’s 58-yard interception return and the extra-point conversion by Ben Blackburn gave them a 7-0 lead.

Blackburn would add two more extra point conversions after second quarter touchdowns by running back Jack Anderson (1-yard run) and Hoffman (52-yard pass reception from quarterback Joe Heimbold) as well as a 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter en route to a 24-14 victory.

As for John Kipper, his presence was felt all over the field.

He had a key tackle during the series that led to Hoffman’s interception return, a nine-yard gain on his first carry from his running back position, and a block leading to a successful extra point conversion.

It was clear that the younger Kipper’s coach was glad to have his player back in form. “Thanks for coming to the game,” Gunderson said to this columnist. “They played hard and John was big factor in the game. “He’s a quality kid.”

 

Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to mmcdonald@spokesman-recorder.com.