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Johns Hopkins football's Jim Margraff on facing former assistant: 'It's neat'

Johns Hopkins football coach Jim Margraff.
Johns Hopkins football coach Jim Margraff. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Saturday's NCAA Division III first-round game between Western New England and Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field at noon will pit mentor against pupil.

The Golden Bears (10-0) are coached by Keith Emery, who was an assistant coach under Blue Jays coach Jim Margraff for seven years and served as the defensive coordinator and associate head coach for part of that time.

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Margraff has faced a former coach and friend as an opponent just once in 26 seasons at Johns Hopkins (10-0), coaching against former Georgetown coach Bob Benson. But Margraff is proud of Emery's success with Western New England.

"Keith did a fantastic job here," Margraff said Wednesday morning. "He was the defensive coordinator when we won our first [Centennial Conference] championship in 2002. So it's going to be different. We've talked on the phone a couple times this week, and I think it's neat being in the playoffs versus a friend. It means you've both had pretty good years to this point. It will be a little odd, but he's done a great job and we're excited to see each other play."

Margraff said he and Emery have sent each other congratulatory text messages after significant wins such as the Golden Bears' 28-21 victory over Salve Regina this past Saturday that locked up the New England Football Conference title and automatic berth in the postseason.

Margraff said he and Emery suspected they would meet in the first round after reading a few mock brackets, but said their friendship won't be an issue on Saturday.

"We're totally focused on whatever comes our way," Margraff said. "Quite honestly, we're focused on us first. So it doesn't really make a difference. It's odd in preparations, but the moment things start, it certainly won't have any effect on us or the game."

Margraff credited Emery with installing a base defense that the No. 8 Blue Jays still use. The familiarity the head coaches have with each other and what they like to do should lead to some interesting chess play on Saturday, Margraff said.

"I think we'll both have a pretty good idea of what the other is doing, but I don't think it will be an issue," he said. "There might even be some signals that are similar to those when he was here, but it really won't change anything we're doing right now."

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