They have so much in common, except, of course, the colors they wear on Friday nights.
Close friends who were classmates and teammates through middle school, JoJo Siofele and Darien Chase expect to face each other for the first time on the football field Friday night when the Union Titans take on the Mountain View Thunder at McKenzie Stadium.
One could expect big plays from each of them. Siofele scored two touchdowns in Week 1 for the Titans. Chase scored three times for the Thunder last week. Both of them shined a year ago, when the first stepped on to the varsity field … as freshmen.
Their coaches say the players have a chance to be special, that their football talent could take them well beyond Southwest Washington high school stadiums.
It is a rare for freshmen to make a major impact at this level — but that’s exactly what they did last year.
They also share another trait: Neither one really likes talking about themselves.
“If you perform, that’s all you have to say,” Chase said.
“I just take care of business,” Siofele said. “I’m about that, basically. That’s all I do.”
Their coaches, though, go a little deeper.
As the new head coach at Union, Rory Rosenbach had heard of Siofele and saw him on video. Then he met him, witnessed Siofele in practice.
“He’s pretty special, with a great attitude and work ethic,” Rosenbach said. “That’s what makes him who he is. He doesn’t take plays off.”
Last week at Hermiston, Siofele rushed for two touchdowns before leaving the game with a tweaked knee. (Siofele said he expects to play this week.)
“Better than advertised,” Rosenbach said of seeing Siofele in a game for the first time. “He’s got a chance to be a very special back.”
Rosenbach described one of Siofele’s touchdown runs, when the big back pivoted, then made “like a 360-move.”
“It was pretty neat to watch that balance. And the ability to accelerate after that was pretty cool,” the coach said.
“It was a fun experience,” Siofele said of the 36-27 win over Hermiston. “My mindset was to win, work hard, hold everyone accountable. We went out there, played our hardest, and we had fun.”
The next day, Mountain View was in Spokane to take on Ferris. Chase, who was an all-league defensive back as a freshman, returned an interception for a touchdown, plus he scored two more TDs on offense in a 32-13 victory.
“It felt unreal a little bit,” Chase said.
Nothing about Chase surprises his coach anymore. The talent was apparent immediately, but Adam Mathieson said there is something different about Chase. Different in a good way.
“You don’t know about a guy until you see the competitive piece. That’s where Darien really excels in, the competitive arena,” Mathieson said. “When something becomes competitive, his intensity changes.”
Mathieson likened it to that of Jake Locker, the only other player in Mathieson’s coaching career to make all-league as a freshman.
“Doc is going to continue to grow and get stronger,” Mathieson said, using Chase’s nickname. “When the ball is in the air, he wants to go get it. He wants to make the tackle. He wants to do whatever it takes for the team to win.
“The team feeds off his energy. Special athletes pull people toward them.”
The special athletes at Union and Mountain View don’t talk like they are anything special, though.
Chase said his defensive touchdown came because all his teammates did their job. There was pressure on the quarterback, he said, which led to the errant pass.
Siofele said his linemen deserve the credit for most of his touchdowns, opening up huge gaps for him to run.
They still have individual goals, of course. But only because they know it will help their teams.
“Stats-wise, I want at least 20-plus touchdowns,” Siofele said. “Team-wise, I want to become even closer to my teammates.”
“I want to win the games, not make all-league and stuff,” Chase said. “But it’s a cool achievement.”
At Union, it’s Mountain View week.
At Mountain View, it’s Union week.
The fans on social media might get after each other, but these two young stars in the making will only be supportive of one another.
They played on the same teams in youth football and then at Shahala Middle School. A year ago, Chase did not play in the Mountain View-Union game, which the Thunder won 46-28. So this would be the first game against each other.
“I’ll tell him ‘Good luck and stay healthy,’ ” Siofele said.
“I know he’s competitive. I am, too,” Chase said. “We both want to win. I respect him a lot.”
No need for a lot of words. Their play speaks for them.