In some families, the cousins are so close they might as well be siblings.
A couple of pertinent players in Friday night’s Ahwatukee Bowl are in that position partially because an older cousin came through the Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe program before them and showed them a proper path.
While the Pride’s Natrell Curtis and the Thunder’s Nick Farina had some guidance, seniors Kenny Lacy and Lorenzo Melvin are about to become so close they can smell the other’s breath.
Cousins or not, they will be the opposition. Face to face. Play after play.
For 48 minutes of football the sense of team trumps family lineage.
Lacy is the left tackle for the Pride’s offense and Melvin primarily plays right defensive end for the Thunder. When Desert Vista has the ball Melvin plays tight end and Lacy defensive end.
Chances are they are going to cross paths, only handshakes will be replaced by pads crashing together. They might be distant cousins on the family tree, but they are going to be closer than ever on the football field.
“It’s a competition and we are not going to leave anything on the table,” Melvin said. “We are definitely going to get after it.”
Alignment shifts might change things up so they might get a break from each other now and then, but chances are it will be the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Lacy locking up with the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Melvin for about 50 plays come Friday night.
The fact that Melvin’s late grandfather — Floyd Gammage, Sr. — was the brother of Lacy’s great grandmother — Bernice Barge — might not exactly come up.
“We didn’t see each other a lot growing up, but we played on the same Pop Warner team,” Melvin said. “We had no idea we’d end up being on the opposite ends of a huge rivalry game.”
Lacy was down playing the possibility of headbutting with Melvin, saying they came across each other a few times in last season’s contest.
“I’m excited and ready to go,” he said. “We’ve both gotten better so it should be a good matchup. Once we get on the field it doesn’t matter who is across from you. It’s a blank face.”
Melvin, who had seven sacks as a junior, was late to the rivalry after transferring from Maricopa, but understands fully now.
“I realized how fierce it was when I went to that first camp,” Melvin said. “Everybody grows up knowing you have to beat Mountain Pointe or it isn’t a successful season.”
It’s a lesson that gets handed down from one class to the next something Farina learned from his cousin, Mike Arredondo, who was one of the Thunder’s top players and captains from last season.
“When I got called up (to the varsity) as a sophomore the first thing I knew was that I matched Mike,” Farina, a senior safety, said. “We were like brothers growing up and probably saw each other every weekend, but nothing beats winning a state title together.”
It is something they got to share last season, but their relationship goes beyond the fact that their mothers are sisters.
“He is my mentor,” Farina said. “He was telling me everything I needed to do (to be successful), I looked up to him and tried to do everything he did.”
Curtis’ relationship was a little different as he actually lived with his cousin, former Pride linebacker Izzy Marshall, whose late father was Curtis’ uncle.
Being in the same household took their relationship to another level so when they had a chance to play on the same team — when Curtis was a freshman, Marshall was a senior — it gave Curtis a chance to get better.
“Playing with my cousin was great because he stayed on me like no one else,” said Curtis, who is a two-way lineman as the left guard and defensive tackle/end. “He worked me harder than everyone else to make sure I did what it takes to be successful.”
Marshall said he felt a level of responsibility to do just that. They come from humble backgrounds and the only way to better themselves is through hard work.
Marshall found it with a scholarship to Arizona State and Curtis, who is 6-3 and 295 pounds, is getting even more attention from colleges.
“He doesn’t settle for less and I know he is going to make something out of himself,” Marshall said. “Even to this day, I try to send him a message. Every day you have a chance to get better and I am not around him as much anymore so when I am, I try to do something to help him.”
While they came across each other in practice — Marshall claims he ran over Curtis — they never had to face off like Melvin and Lacy are about to do in the Ahwatukee Bowl.
“If I lined up against my cousin it wouldn’t matter on the field,” Curtis said. “That’s the enemy. He’s going to play hard and I am going to play hard.
“And by the end of the night we’d find out who had the better game on the scoreboard.”
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