George Brazil approached the largest guy in the Sylmar High weight room and introduced himself.
"Hi, I'm George Brazil," he said. The two football players shook hands. "I'm a sophomore," he continued.
Tyrone Pierce's eyes widened in disbelief. Brazil stood before him at about 6-foot-1, 200-plus pounds. "I'm a sophomore too," Pierce responded.
Astonished, Brazil was rendered speechless. He had assumed because of Pierce's size, which was remarkably similar to his own, that he must be a senior. "From then on we just hit it off," Pierce said. "I got his (phone) number and we became good friends."
Three years have passed since that meeting. They have played havoc with opponents--and each other--ever since.
Today against Carson at El Camino College in Torrance, they will join forces in hopes of leading Sylmar to a City Section 4-A Division title.
Each stands 6-3 and weighs about 230 pounds. Their size, speed and talent has college recruiters hot on their trails.
But recruiters need a game program to figure out which is which. In addition to bearing a striking resemblance in terms of body proportion, they play the same positions: Both start at outside linebacker and alternate at tight end.
"That's why we call them The Twins," Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman said.
The 17-year-old Twins, of course, are not related. In fact, they were born in different countries, six months apart. Brazil, who was born in Mexico, is six months older than his buddy, who was born in Granada Hills.
Brazil has never met his biological father. Pierce's parents divorced several years ago and his father moved to Lancaster. The two teammates--one Hispanic, one African-American--come from different cultures, different backgrounds. But judging by the playful banter between them, they easily could pass for brothers. They might bark, bicker and brawl, but they manage to keep their relationship intact.
Pranks between them are frequent. Teasing is constant. One might make a crack about the other's girlfriend. The other might sneak in a punch when coaches aren't looking. A chase usually ensues, a wrestling match begins. "Big kids," Brazil said. "That's exactly what we are. Big kids.
"But, I still say I'm the biggest."
Their competitive nature has been the impetus for both to excel in a sport they have played since youth. They have been drilling each other in practice for three years. They have grown up together. "We're always competing against each other," Pierce said. "We go against each other in the drills and everything."
Some battles are won by Pierce, some by Brazil. But neither has ever bowed to the other.
Last spring, Brazil showed up for a seven-on-seven, intrasquad scrimmage wearing a baseball cap. Everyone on the team knows that Engilman bans caps, rags and bandannas at practice, but the coach was not there to enforce the rule.
Pierce, who was on Brazil's team and angry that his team was losing, asked Brazil to adhere to team rules and take off the cap. Brazil refused. Several teammates then asked Brazil to comply. Again, Brazil refused.
"No one else had a hat on," Pierce said, "but George was gonna wear his hat no matter what."
A fight broke out. Brazil and Pierce traded punches until Brazil tried to body slam Pierce.
"I picked him all the way up, got him up, but we both came down at the same time and I dislocated my shoulder," Brazil said.
Friends who try to body slam each other? Apparently, the roughhousing causes no lasting rifts. They are good friends off the field and spend a great deal of time together.
Like bear cubs, their play appears overly frisky and rough to the average onlooker. But, to The Twins, it's just friendly, fierce competition that sometimes goes too far. To Engilman, it's a blessing.
"Sometimes it gets a little vicious, but I like that about them," Engilman said. "I want aggressive ballplayers."
Even their most recent scuffle during the Spartans' first-round playoff game against Venice was no cause for alarm, Engilman said.
"I messed up on this one play," Brazil said. "Coach sent me out, and as I was leaving, (Pierce) said something I didn't like.
"So I started mouthing off and Tyrone said, 'Watch your mouth,' and I said, 'You watch yours,' and we started getting into it again."
Once again, The Twins started pushing and shoving until teammates separated them. The Spartans had to call a timeout to regroup.
Moments later, on the Sylmar sideline, Brazil and Pierce shook hands, embraced briefly and resumed their playful banter. One playfully slapped the other in the helmet and a chase ensued--until Engilman caught a glimpse of the tomfoolery, causing both to stop dead in their tracks. "Would you guys stop screwing around," Engilman barked. Then all three broke into laughter.
"When anything happens, you kiss and make up and it's over," Pierce said. "Nothing is taken off the field."
"They joke around a lot, but they get the job done," said Brandon McGee, a defensive tackle. "When it comes down to it, they're serious."