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January 21, 2012

QBs eager for next meeting ... in Ireland

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

It was a chance meeting, sure, but it was a conversation that could only be had by the two teenagers involved.

Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame quarterback Kelly Hilinski was paired with Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton passer Allen Thigpen in passing drills at a combine earlier this month.

The two engaged in the expected small-talk of a combine when it hit the both of them.

"We just looked at each other and were like, 'Hey, aren't you,' and we laughed," Hilinski said during registration at the U.S. Army National Combine.

It was in that moment that each realized this will not be the last time they will be on the field with the other. Next time, however, it will be in another country.

Hilinski and Thigpen will lead their teams into action in Dublin, Ireland, to kick off the upcoming season - against each other.

"It was really great to meet him," Hilinski said. "I have been so excited about this trip, but when I bring it up it players from other teams usually get jealous; we were able to share in the excitement together."

In March of 2011, it was announced that the two West Region teams would square off on August 31 as part of the Global Ireland Football Tournament.

"It is a great means to get our kids a cultural experience," Hamilton coach Steve Belles said at the time. "We will get to show them things they may have otherwise never experienced and we get to challenge ourselves with a fantastic opponent."

The 6-foot-6 Hilinski said that the excitement is just starting to build.

"It is finally feeling real," he said. "We didn't really talk about it much last season, but it has been circled on all of our calendars."

Hilinski said his Notre Dame teammates did not discuss it much this school year because they felt bad for the group of seniors that will be graduated before the trip happens.

"It was hard to be too excited," he said. "Our sophomore year we went to Texas and our senior year we are going to Ireland. It was tough because, as seniors, they didn't get to do those things. I mean they went to Texas, but it wasn't their turn to be in the spotlight and they won't get to go to Ireland at all."

It will not just be the football teams making the trip.

"We are brining everyone," Hilinski said. "Our fundraising needs to really take off."

When the game was announced, Hilinski's coach Kevin Rooney indicated that Notre Dame would be taking upward of 200 students, not counting spectators.

Nearly 100 band members, 75 football players, and 12 cheerleaders will be making the trip.

"It is a lot," Hilinski said. "But we are prepared to do our part."

As is Hamilton.

"We are excited to take our team overseas to take on a challenging opponent and look forward to showing the people of Ireland what top-quality high school football is all about," Belles said.

Hamilton has been nationally ranked in the RivalsHigh 100 in each of the last five seasons.

Notre Dame has fallen off the national radar after its former quarterback, five-star recruit Dayne Crist, graduated. Hilinski hopes to make this year different.

"We want to bring the spotlight back to the school this year," he said. "We have a talented team and hopefully we will start off hot."

The talent starts with Hilinski. A tall, lean, quarterback he is being recruited by several schools.

Stanford, UCLA, Boston College, USC, and Harvard have all been involved in the process and want to see him in person.

As for his encounter with his future competitor?

"We got to know each other at the Semper Fi event," Hilinski said. "He was a good guy and it will be great to see him again in Ireland.

"It will be better if we win though."

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