Hopewell snags first soccer win of the season

When Hopewell wants to run the ball, it leans on twin tandem

by Cliff Mehrtens

Hopewell twins Brandon (left) and Jason Sparrow start next to each other on the offensive line. (Cliff Mehrtens/MIM photo)

When you’re a twin, you naturally spend a lot of time shoulder-to-shoulder with your sibling.
The Sparrow brothers take that one step farther on Hopewell High’s football team. They’re shoulder-to-shoulder on every Titans offensive play.
Jason is the starting right guard. Brandon is the starting right tackle. They work about 18 inches apart.
The Sparrows are juniors, just past the halfway point in their high school careers, and both weigh 240 pounds. Brandon is 6 foot 3, and Jason is listed as two inches shorter.
“We both have that chemistry,” Jason said. “So if we mess up, we usually tell each other. If I’m doing wrong, he’ll tell me. If he’s doing wrong, I’ll tell him. We can click because we’re brothers.”
A lot went right in the Sparrows’ blocking path during Hopewell’s 41-13 victory against Providence in the season opener Aug. 19.
Denzel Heath’s three-yard touchdown run that gave the Titans a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter went where the Sparrow twins were blocking. On the third play of the fourth quarter, the clinching score went in the same direction. Heath ran five yards off right tackle to give Hopewell a 27-13 lead.
“Coaches will talk about a play and say `Can I depend on you, Sparrows?’” Brandon said. “That makes you feel good.”
The twins have always been offensive lineman, so they’re accustomed to not receiving the same level of public glory that running backs and receivers do. They agree it’s just part of being a lineman.
There is no animosity involved. Rewards come from within, or from coaches’ and teammates’ praise.
“Coaches tell us all the time that a team can’t do anything without the offensive line,” Jason said. “There’s a lot the quarterback can’t do without us, so I think about that, I guess.”
Brandon shrugged, smiled and said, “Somebody’s got to do it.”
The twins (Brandon is a few minutes older) spend nearly all their time at school together, which they say friends ask them about. It comes naturally. They hang out with the same groups of friends. Again, it’s a comfort-level thing.
Then again, they are brothers. Sibling battles can pop up in any family, whether you’re a twin or not.
“We’re older now, so I’ve learned when to back away (from teasing, etc.),” Brandon said. “But we’re brothers. We love each other.”
Both twins dabble in basketball but agree that Brandon’s better in hoops. Last summer, they took up boxing for fun, at Mike’s Fitness and Boxing Academy in Charlotte. It helped with conditioning, footwork and using their arms (vital to offensive linemen).
Plus, they got to spar against each other.
“He has longer arms than me,” Jason said, sounding as if he’d taken too many jabs.
Said Brandon: “But if you get too close (to Jason), he’s got power.”
But they’re football players at heart. At home, conversations usually turn toward football. The twins have played various positions along the offensive line. They’ve flip-flopped from last season, when Jason was a tackle and Brandon was a guard.
“I like the closeness they have,” said Hopewell offensive line coach Chuck Tabor. “Twins, I don’t know, there’s just something about that closeness. It’s also interesting to see how they’re night and day, even though they’re twins.”
Jason’s the quieter of the two, Tabor said.
Brandon, a bit taller and more athletic, has huge potential, he added.
But the Sparrows aren’t a novelty to Tabor. He sees them as 40 percent of the five-man offensive line that must work together or fail.
“What I love about all our linemen is that they know it’s not about one or two – it’s about all five of us,” he said. “It’s all about a team, not one person.
“We have to do it right. One person breaking down and you can have a horrible play.”
Tabor said he treats the Sparrows individually, as he does all players.
“I can get on one and love the other,” he said. “And vice versa.”
The Sparrows were key ingredients in Hopewell rolling up 379 yards against Providence (198 rushing and 181 passing). They and all the Titans are adjusting to new coach David Johnson’s Spread offense, which often uses four- and five-receiver formations.
The linemen must be able to run block, as Heath is one of the area’s top running backs. They also must be accomplished pass blockers and versatile enough for plays such as screens and draws.
The Sparrow twins, asked to critique each other, offered thoughtful comments.
Brandon on Jason: “Being an offensive lineman, you have to be mean. He is, and he’s big and strong. I’ve never told him this, but I’d like him to be more athletic.”
Jason on Brandon: “He never gives up. He’s not as bulky as me, but he’s just as strong, and he knows how to get into a guy. He’s more athletic, and he’s gotten bigger and stronger this year. He’s worked hard, and it’s nice to see he’s dedicated.”

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