The WPIAL's several sets of siblings
Upper St. Clair's Sam, Luke and Gabe Boyd are about as close as brothers can be on the football field.
So close, in fact, that some opponents might think they're one person.
"You normally get that when we're walking through the (handshake) line," Luke Boyd said with a laugh. "They keep thinking they're seeing the same kid in the game. But whenever they see three kids one after another, they're like, 'Oh my God, there's more than one of them?' "
The Boyds are triplets and teammates.
The WPIAL has a number of talented brothers this year. Among them are Monessen's Rawlins and Mt. Lebanon's Brierchecks, along with the Walkers and Fetchets at South Fayette. Like the Boyds, they too understand the balance between football and family.
"I know him better than I could know any other player, so we work well together," Mt. Lebanon senior Tim Briercheck said of brother Mike, "but there is frustration because we're more likely to get on each other's back than we would any other player."
The Boyds, now seniors, have played football since fifth grade. They also have a younger brother, Ben, who's a sophomore. Always having a sibling around can be comforting and motivational, they said.
"You always have someone to push you," Luke Boyd said. "You always have someone to practice with. That makes it easier to learn and makes practice 10 times easier."
But there's also always competition.
"Whether lifting in the weight room or running a 40-yard dash," Sam Boyd said.
It helps that each plays a different position. None is a starter, but all are key contributors. Sam is a cornerback, Luke plays outside linebacker and Gabe sees carries at fullback. There's no battle among them for playing time, a situation they were happy to avoid.
"We're not fighting for the same positions, so you get to root for your brother," Gabe said.
South Fayette showed its brotherly love Week 1, when brothers Mike and Grant Fetchet, and Zach and J.J. Walker all scored touchdowns. Mike Fetchet caught a 21-yard touchdown pass, and Grant had a 6-yard scoring run. Zach Walker had a 3-yard touchdown run, and J.J. Walker ran 16 for his.
"Seeing one score a touchdown and being hugged by their brother, that's a special thing," South Fayette coach Joe Rossi said.
But there's also somewhat of a battle for playing time between the Walkers. J.J. Walker, a sophomore running back, sits behind brother Zach and Grant Fetchet on the depth chart.
"As far as on the field, they get after each other at practice," Rossi said of the Walkers. "When one's on offense, the other's on defense. And they're stuffing the hole and hitting each other. You can see a little extra shoving."
Rossi has seen the brother connection have great benefit, especially for the younger sibling. He points to senior wideout Zach Challingsworth, who played as a freshman and sophomore with older brother Tyler.
"Tyler taught him so much about how to be tough," Rossi said. "If you're the younger one, you've definitely got that advantage."
The WPIAL has had a number of notable brother tandems in the past couple of years. There were Rob and Pat Kugler at North Allegheny. Ian and Austin Park at Upper St. Clair, and older brother Alex a few years earlier. Dakota and T.D. Conway at California. Carvan and Capri Thompson at Clairton.
Mt. Lebanon's Tim and Mike Briercheck are twins and starters for the Blue Devils. Tim plays linebacker and fullback. Mike, a receiver and defensive back, caught two touchdown passes Friday night.
"It's a lot of fun, especially when you see the other make a good play," Mike Briercheck said. "You feel really excited for them."
But that emotion works both ways when something goes wrong, they said.
"With another player I'd probably just pick them up," Tim Briercheck said. "With him, we'll get frustrated and say something that's negative."
The Brierchecks are not identical twins, and Mike said they're "complete opposites." So coaches have no trouble telling them apart.
However, the Boyds are different. The three are aware they look very similar — each about 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds — and have noticed coaches use jersey numbers to tell them apart. Gabe wears No. 30, Sam has No. 40 and Luke is No. 80.
"I can't tell them apart any better today than I could four years ago," Upper St. Clair coach Jim Render said.
So the Boyds developed another system: Gabe has grown a full beard, Luke wears a goatee and Sam is clean shaven.
"That's the way all our friends tell us apart, too," said Sam, the oldest of the three by one minute.
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.