Lane Rich and Noble Stevens grew up in Millsap talking about someday playing for the Bulldogs varsity football team.
It took longer than they wanted, but that dream finally became reality this season. Both are seniors, playing alongside each other.
"Noble and me, we're finally doing something we've always wanted to do, and this is very special," Rich said.
"We've talked about it since Pre-K and we're finally just now getting to play together in high school. We wish it would have happened sooner, but we're making the most of the time we have," Stevens said.
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Rich made the Bulldogs varsity as a freshman. Stevens would likely have done the same, but surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament kept him from playing.
As a sophomore, Stevens came back strong. This time, though, it was Rich who missed the year with a left shoulder injury. The same inury sidelined him as a junior, while Stevens played.
They got a small taste of playing together, as Rich's injuries occurred a few games into each season. Each time he was the leading tackler through the first three games.
"I can't put into words what it was like watching my brothers run around at practice and games and I couldn't," Rich said. "Now, I'm trying to make the most of every single play."
Both Rich and Stevens were having sensational seasons as the Bulldogs entered the regular-season final. Stevens was leading the team in pancake blocks, including 19 in one game, and was playing strong on the defensive line. Rich had four interceptions on defense and was the team's leading receiver (13 catches, 190 yards, 1 TD).
"The most rewarding part of this job is seeing the change in young men. They win together and lose together," Millsap head coach Jacob Johnson said. "And to see those two get to enjoy this season together, that's just a fantastic feeling."
As each best friend fought back from injury, the other was there by his side, encouraging him and doing all he could to help with the recovery. Stevens said it was especially hard watching Rich suffer not one, but two injuries in such a short span.
"Seeing him down and not able to play, it hurt me," Stevens said. "We'd (the team) come in and he'd be in tears. It inspires us now that we have him back."
Making this season even more special is the Bulldogs entered the final game of the regular season still in the hunt for the playoffs. Their last playoff appearance was in 2009, when both were in elementary school.
"Sometimes it's hard to sit back and realize we're doing this," Rich said. "However it ends, it will be special."
The two were also part of a special moment in Millsap football history earlier this season. They posted three consecutive shutouts.
"I'm having the time of my life," Stevens said. "If we could make it to the playoffs, that would be fantastic, but it's just great for us to be playing together again."