The Brown brothers, a study in contrasts, are a capsule of an Elma Eagles football team in transition.
Experience, on one hand; emerging potential on the other. A.J. Brown, the senior brother, is built like the linebacker he is. Avery Brown, the junior, is whippet-thin.
Both have played quarterback in the Eagles program. Any lingering angst that Avery — the younger brother — is the starting quarterback this season is nowhere to be found.
“I love my brother,” A.J. said. “He’s good on his feet, and he has an amazing arm. His arm is crazy.”
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Both brothers will be on the field a lot for Elma in its first season under head coach Ron Clark.
Clark takes over after the resignation of longtime head coach Jim Hill. Graduation thinned the Eagles’ ranks — three starters return on each side of the ball.
A.J. played quarterback on junior varsity as a freshman and for two games as a sophomore until he broke his wrist. Last season, when the Eagles went 5-4 in the 1A Evergreen Conference, he was a starting outside linebacker on defense and a running back on offense. He’ll play the same roles this year.
Avery was the starting JV quarterback last season, and this year will play that role for the varsity. He will start at free safety, too.
Avery said he expects to be nervous for his first few game snaps, but he sees talent around him at the skill positions.
“We have a lot of options,” he said of the Eagles’ combo Wing-T/spread offense.
Senior wideout Brandon Butcher (5-foot-11, 145 pounds) is the “X” receiver — the No. 1 target, the brothers said. Senior tight end Liam Baxter (6-2, 210) has “amazing hands,” A.J. Brown said.
Senior Ira Hartford, 6-0 and 185, was second-team all-conference as the F-back (in Eagles terminology) last year, and plays outside linebacker. A.J. Brown (6-2, 240) is the H-back.
Both Brown brothers say the team’s success will rest largely on the big shoulders of senior Oscar Escalante (5-11, 280), a two-way all-EvCo lineman last year.
“If he’s not all-state this year there’s something wrong,” A.J. said of Escalante.
The brothers moved to Elma in 2011 from Tacoma’s south end. The switch from city kids to small-town guys has been “different,” A.J. said
On the football field, A.J. sees good things for the Eagles.
“We should make the playoffs,” he said. “I feel really confident.”
1A EvCo primer