By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — In a hard-hitting game between league rivals, there was a rare moment of kindness.
“After I got done blocking (Covington’s) Ethan (Herron), my jersey was up over my shoulder pads,” Miami East sophomore Kaleb Nickels said. “I was all messed up. He took the time to pull it back down on the middle of the field right after the play. Then we both went back to our huddles.”
Because they’re family — and for the first time, Herron, Nickels and Jarrett Boggs were able to share the field this season, in a manner of speaking.
Despite playing for three different football teams — Herron for Covington, Nickels for Miami East and Boggs for Bradford — the three family members’ teams all play in the same league, the Cross County Conference, giving the trio the opportunity to share the field with each other when their teams played against each other.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Herron, a senior running back for the Buccaneers. “I saw them during the games, and even between plays I always talked to them and joked around with them. It was fun going up against them. It was something I looked forward to.”
Herron played varsity for the past four seasons and Boggs was a varsity lineman for the Railroaders for the past three seasons, while this was Nickels’ first year up on varsity for the Vikings. Still, this was the first season the trio saw any head-to-head matchups, as it was Bradford’s first year back as a member of the CCC after being an independent for the previous two seasons.
After going 7-13 in its two seasons as an independent, Bradford went 0-10 this season, making it a rough year for Boggs — but seeing family across the field on two separate occasions helped.
“It’s been pretty tough, especially the last couple years,” he said. “(As an independent), we were playing teams three or four hours away, so we weren’t getting back until 3 or 4 a.m. sometimes. But it was cool getting to play against them this year. And actually being back in the CCC was good this year.
“It’s pretty nice. It’s just fun and games. We like competing against each other.”
“It was pretty fun. I was only in during the first half, but I remember seeing him out there,” Herron said of Covington’s Week 8 matchup against Bradford. Being a running back and linebacker, Herron didn’t come up against lineman Boggs often during the game. “I think he did pretty well. And I got a picture with him after the game.”
It was also a tough season for Herron’s Buccaneers. The Buccs began the season with three straight losses, bouncing back with two straight wins leading up to the showdown against Miami East in Week 6. And though the stakes were high — the two teams shared the CCC title in 2015 and the Buccs won it outright in 2016 — there was also a one-on-one battle going on throughout the game.
“Oh yeah, we were watching film the week before we played East, and I saw that he and I were going to be up against each other,” Herron said. “I realized he was actually going to be blocking me every play, and I was looking forward to it. I got him a couple times, but he got me a couple times, too.”
“I did tackle him a couple times,” Nickels said. “I blocked him almost every single play. It was a fun game, too, a good game.”
Miami East held on for a 34-26 victory, then the Vikings played Boggs’ Railroaders in Week 7, winning that game, as well. East finished the regular season 9-1 and was the outright CCC champion with an 8-0 record, earning the No. 1 seed in the Division V, Region 20 playoffs — giving Nickels a taste of postseason play. The Buccs, meanwhile, finished 5-5, and while Herron had played in the playoffs each of his past three seasons, Covington’s lengthy postseason streak came to an end.
“I felt bad for Ethan,” Nickels said. “They’ve had such a tough season. They’re definitely a good football team, and he’s a great running back. But he’s going to go off to college, I’m guessing, and I’ll be able to watch him there.”
And Herron and Boggs both had plans to watch Nickels play in his postseason game, which was Friday night at Miami East against Reading.
“Oh definitely, I’ll be going up to see Kaleb play and cheering him on,” Herron said. “This’ll be his first time playing in a playoff game, so the atmosphere for him will be really fun. I know I loved it, that atmosphere. And I’llbe cheering him on.”
The Vikings lost to Reading 27-25 and finished with a 9-2 record on the year — but Nickels scored East’s first touchdown of the game with a 10-yard run in the first quarter.
Still, it was an entertaining season for the trio — particularly going up against each other.
“I think it’s pretty fun getting to go up against your cousins,” Nickels said. “Not everyone gets that chance. They’re my family, and it’s just fun. I mean, we’ll say hi to each other and talk before the play, and we’ll help each other up.”
Because they’re family.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.