LANCASTER — Trymon Redick wanted to make a statement about his friendships with Tony Walker and Jermaine Lewis.
Just being Antelope Valley High football teammates and hanging out with his friends off the field wasn't enough.
Redick wanted to align himself a little closer for all the world to see. So, he changed his jersey number. The old No. 15 was replaced by No. 24 for what soon became an obvious reason.
No. 22 Walker, No. 23 Lewis and No. 24 Redick are listed next to each other on the team roster.
Just as it should be.
"We're real tight," Redick said. "We support each other always."
Redick, Walker and Lewis, who have accounted for 16 of the Antelopes' 25 touchdowns, are three reasons why Antelope Valley is the No. 1 team in the region by The Times, the No. 4 team in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 24 in a national poll.
The Antelopes (4-0), who have won 13 consecutive games, including the 1994 Southern Section Division II title game against Hart, might face their toughest challenge of the year tonight at 7:30 when they face Long Beach Poly (4-0), ranked No. 7 in the state, in a nonleague game at Long Beach Veterans Stadium.
It is a game the Antelopes have been anticipating since the start of practice. A victory would make them true contenders for the state's top ranking.
"I'm not gonna take anything away from them," Lewis said of the Jackrabbits. "They match us perfectly. This will really be a test for our [defensive] backfield."
To defeat Poly, Antelope Valley needs a big game from its formidable trio. The Antelopes, who might have the toughest nonleague schedule in the region, have already run away from Hesperia, 63-13, West Bakersfield, 46-2, Bakersfield, 35-15, and Loyola, 38-6.
Coach Brent Newcomb is ready to pit his Antelopes, who allow just 186 yards a game, against all comers.
"It seems the better the competition, the better they play," Newcomb said.
Antelope Valley is best compared to a high-performance automobile. Moderate size, exceptional speed, great performance.
Lewis is the spark plug of the Antelope Valley offense, which averages 399 yards a game.
The 5-foot-7, 165-pound senior is a compact bundle of power and speed. Lewis, who bench-presses 315 pounds and squats 420, has rushed for 405 yards and five touchdowns in 69 carries.
Walker, a 6-foot, 152-pound junior, and Redick, a 6-foot, 186-pound senior, are two-way starters at receiver and defensive back.
All three players have physical tools that make them NCAA Division I prospects. Yet each is traveling in a different direction off the field.
Redick, 18, will never forget Aug. 29, the day he became a father. Daughter Teria weighed 6 pounds 9 ounces at birth.
"It was unbelievable," Redick said, smiling while recalling the day.
For Redick, Teria is one more female encompassing his world. He has been the man of the house since his youth. He and his four sisters were raised by his mother and grandmother.
"When my dad left it was like somebody had to take the role," said Redick, who has neither seen nor heard from his father since he started high school.
Redick, who lives with his mother, balances sharing the responsibility of raising Teria with trying to maintain his status as a high school athlete.
His commitments to his family often supersede the demands of his coach and teammates.
"On Monday, Trymon had to move," Newcomb said. "He had to miss practice. What do you tell a kid who says to me, 'We gotta move out of this apartment and move into this apartment?' "
If he is one who has scored touchdowns on six of the 13 times he has touched the ball on offense, apparently something like, "Sure."
Newcomb, who is in his 18th season as Antelope Valley coach, knows that Redick won't be his last player with priorities beyond football.
"I've had to restructure my thinking a bit," Newcomb said.
So has Redick, who has moved six times in the last four years.
A new baby is the latest on a long list of responsibilities.
"It makes things harder because I have to go to school, then I have to get home and worry about taking care of her," said Redick, who shares custody with his girlfriend, Nadia. "I'm starting to get the hang of it now, so it's not that much of a burden on me."
Redick hopes to attract a Division I scholarship offer, but it appears that he will be lacking several core classes required by the NCAA.
"That's where he needs a kick in the butt," Lewis said. "I've seen people fall out like that. Just messin' up a lot. I don't want to see him at a JC and get lost somewhere. I tell him that all the time."
Walker also will be hard-pressed to pass the required basic curriculum to qualify for a university, Newcomb said.
If only classwork came as easily as field work. Walker, the starting point guard on the Antelope Valley basketball team, is probably the school's best all-around athlete.