Sibling rivalry

Published 7:59 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Brother vs. brother: King’s Fork senior Osten Morris, right, and Nansemond River freshman Mack Morris could line up brother vs. brother Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium. Both are linemen, with Mack being called up from the Warrior JV team late in the season.

It’s relatively common for best friends or former Pop Warner teammates to square off as rivals when two Suffolk schools meet on the gridiron.

There’s one home where Friday night’s contest between King’s Fork and Nansemond River splits a family right down the middle.

Osten Morris is a senior for the Bulldogs. His younger brother Mack, a freshman, might have been his teammate this season, as he was moving up from the middle school team at John F. Kennedy.

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However, Mack entered into the engineering program at Nansemond River this school year. A head-to-head clash still seemed unlikely, as Mack spent most of the season on the Warrior JV squad.

“There’ve been lots of injuries, so coach moved up a bunch of the JV guys to at least dress for varsity games,” Mack said.

That sets up Friday’s season finale, which doubles as the deciding game for the city championship. Nansemond River’s only win is over Lakeland. King’s Fork’s two wins have been on the last two Fridays, including last week over the Cavaliers.

Even while Osten, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound lineman, playing mostly at right tackle, was on varsity and Mack, who doesn’t give up much size to his older brother, was a JV player, there was tension in the Morris household.

“Playbooks were hidden,” Osten said.

“And all discussion of practices was forbidden all year,” said Stephanie, Osten’s and Mack’s mother.

Both coaches, Tracey Parker at Nansemond River and Joe Jones at King’s Fork, know about the showdown, the boys said. While both play primarily on the offensive side, there might be a play or two for one of them on defense just to let the brothers go at it.

“This could be worse than wrestling,” Mack said. Both brothers also are on the schools wrestling teams, setting up the possibility of another confrontation in January or February.

“I don’t know where I’m going to sit or even how to cheer,” Stephanie said. “We might have to have one parent on either side of the stadium.”

Osten and Mack combine for 18 seasons of football, from youth leagues to high school. They’ve been teammates a couple times, but never opponents.

“Our dad always coached one of us, usually switching each season,” Mack said.

Their dad’s in the Navy and missed last season. He’s been here for this season, but whether he’ll be able to attend Osten’s graduation in the spring is a question mark.

Osten and Mack grew up in football-rich Ohio.

“We’re a diehard football family,” Osten said.

“The Browns and Ohio State,” Mack said.

“Even when he was gone, he’d call to see how we did. He’d call before and after every game and want to know as much as he could,” Osten said.

Both sides hold city bragging rights in high regard. It carries right down to the brothers.

“It means all the work was worth it and we were able to come together as a team,” Osten said.

“It’ll mean we’re figuring out the right way to play and we can implement all of that for next year,” Mack said.

Osten, who’s also active in King’s Fork’s Chess Club, band and Beta Club, says he might play football if given the chance collegiately. He also knows Friday’s game might be the final time he gets to line up in the trenches.

So after graduation, at least for the next three football seasons, is Osten a Bulldog or Warrior fan?

After hesitation, then laughter, from both brothers, Osten hedged toward his loyalty to King’s Fork.

“Come on! If I was in your position, I’d support you,” Mack said, nearly ready to tackle his brother right in the Morris living room.

Now with the game nearing, it’s likely better for the Morris family the aggression can be spent on the field.