TALK OF brotherhoods and bonds abound when you speak with enough high school athletes.
Of course, indelible connections can be forged while logging hours at practice that sometimes amount to more minutes spent near huddles than in your actual home.
Blood, sweat and the occasional tear are shed with these people, all while sacrificing a certain amount of individuality for a larger, collective goal.
So perhaps it's easy for those familial terms to become a bit cliché and hyperbolic when espoused by teenagers in the midst of a championship chase.
However, sometimes they are spot on.
Archbishop Wood senior Devon Cobb can attest.
After the 5-10, 230-pound senior defensive lineman found out his grand-aunt died earlier this season, Cobb's "older brother," senior defensive specialist Nafeez Brown-Carter, offered support.
The funeral of 70-year-old Melba Guy, the sister of Cobb's grandfather, Marq Temple, was the morning of the Vikings' Week 6 game against La Salle (Wood lost, 35-31).
"When my aunt passed away during La Salle week, I was down a lot," Cobb said yesterday before practice.
"During that game, he started crying," the 6-foot, 210-pound Brown-Carter added later. "I was just there for him like, 'Bro, keep your head up. We gotta get this win today.' "
The Mt. Airy residents are likely undersized by most high-level collegiate standards so they aren't the most heavily-recruited names on Wood's defensive lineup. But, Cobb and Brown-Carter have certainly helped solidify a stingy defense.
Since the La Salle loss, the Vikings have allowed just 11 points per game in seven contests, which includes a 42-34 victory against Imhotep in the AAA city title game.
Cobb was recently named first-team All-Catholic by league coaches for the second straight season. Brown-Carter, a second-teamer as a junior, helped hold down the fort last week in the quarterfinals when Cobb, Jake Cooper (Penn State) and Mark Webb were out with injuries (Wood beat Great Valley, 44-7).
Cobb is confident he'll return in Saturday's semifinal in Chambersburg against District 5 foe Somerset. Webb, a second-team pick this season at defensive back and first team as a multipurpose offensive threat, was also confident he'd be back. It's unclear whether Cooper, a first-teamer this season and last at middle linebacker, will play.
"We're just like a family basically, so if one of us is down we're all down," Cobb said. "We play off each other's energy and emotion . . . it's like a brotherhood with us."
And like any family, some siblings are closer than others.
"Me and 'Feez grew up together," Cobb said. "I have a bond with him that I don't have with other people on the team. I know Nafeez by heart. You could say he's like my blood brother."
The pair first played together for the Mt. Airy Bantams football organization.
So, when Brown-Carter saw tears welling in Cobb's eyes against La Salle, he knew just what to say.
" 'She's looking over top of you so you have a guardian angel,' " Cobb recalled hearing. " 'So you're here with your brothers and you know I have your back . . . I'm rocking with you until the end.' "
"Surprisingly," Cobb continued, "he stayed with me throughout the game to make sure I was cool and he checked in on me later that night to see if I was OK."
Cobb had grown tight with Guy, whose death came as a shock.
"It was so sudden because she was healthy, never had any problems," he said. "Loved talking to her; she was like one of my best friends and I really do miss her.
"If you were down, she could put a smile on your face just by looking at you. She didn't even have to say anything. I couldn't describe how much she was just a big factor in my life."
Whether he was chasing too many girls instead of chasing his books or "acting up" at home with his mother, Jada Temple, Cobb said Guy was always there.
Space on his right forearm is already reserved for a future tattoo bearing her name. Sadly however, she never got to see him play high school football.
"Unfortunately, no," Cobb said. "And that really hurts me, because she would always try to, but she was always busy working with a lot of charities."
He added: "She was just a great woman."
On Saturday, Cobb and Brown-Carter will try to help Wood stay a great team, and they might even compete with each other along the way.
"Big conversations that have been brewing over the years are: Who hits harder and who gets more girls," Cobb said. "We go back and forth with stuff like that.
"I'll say stuff like ' 'Feez, you can't hit with me, bro,' and he'll say, 'Dev you don't want to do this.' "
Naturally, both agreed on who is the hardest hitter.
"Of course I hit harder!" both exclaimed in separate conversations.
Neither has college offers, but both have received modest interest from Akron, Towson, Shippensburg and Bloomsburg (they also attended camps together last summer).
And what happens if they go their own routes?
"It would be upsetting a little bit because we've been together for so long," Brown-Carter said. "I'd be missing him because that's my bro. We've played together since we were 7 years old."
For now, Cobb just wants to keep winning, proving people wrong about his size and playing with his family.
"I really love the game and you could never change my mind about it," he said. "Football is honestly the greatest sport ever made and I love playing, especially with my brothers behind me."
St. Joseph's Prep vs. Pennsbury
PIAA Class AAAA semifinal
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Charles Martin Memorial Field, Northeast
Archbishop Wood vs. Somerset
PIAA Class AAA semifinal
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Where: Chambersburg High