Although they are twins, Devoris and Javoris Havis are more a reflection of their father than each other.
Born two minutes apart — Devoris is older and bigger, which leads Javoris to joke "I was hanging back, still eating, trying to catch up to his size" — the gifted pair are a key part of the group of athletes who have helped Chattanooga Christian School's football program close the gap on the top teams in TSSAA Division II-AA.
The fourth-ranked Chargers (7-1, 5-0 East Region) can equal the most wins in program history by taking care of business against winless Republic on Friday, and they can earn their first region title when they travel to second-ranked and unbeaten Knoxville Webb next week.
"When we first got here, I think I was bigger than every offensive lineman we had," said Javoris, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound running back. "I had played defensive line, but they moved me to running back right before our first varsity game. I was so nervous, but Daddy told me before the game to just run angry because people won't like hitting me because of my size. I ran for more than 100 yards in that first game, and things just kind of took off from there."
Neither of the twins wanted to play football as kids, but when they were 9 years old their dad, Lavoris, signed them up, then began coaching them up in the backyard and on the car rides home after practice.
"He played at Howard, so he knew a lot of the other dads and would always hype up the other team to us," Devoris said. "Our mom is the one who sits in the stands and supports us, but he was more hands on. The postgame talks on the ride home, no matter how good we had played, he would always point out something we needed to do better.
"That just made us want to go back out there and show out for him. You don't see many people with the last name Havis, so we wanted to make sure people knew whose sons we were so he would be proud. His advice is why we are the players and people we are now."
Last March, the family lost their outspoken patriarch when a heart attack took Lavoris' life. True to their personalities, Javoris internalized the death of his dad, while Devoris became even more outspoken.
"I wanted to be more of a leader," said Devoris, a 6-foot, 235-pound defensive end who has become a constant disruptor of opposing offenses. "I like to see people do things right, and I thought about how our dad always spoke up with how he felt, so I felt like as one of the biggest and strongest guys on the team, I should take on that role this season.
"Both of us playing so well this season has been special because we know when we watch each other that really that's a part of you out there making plays. We're each other's biggest fan now."
Before each game, the senior twins scribble their dad's initials on their wrist tape and then follow their own separate pregame tributes. As the team makes its way from the locker room to the field, Devoris will stop at the spot where their dad always stood to watch, pausing to glance up to the sky as a reminder to play with the effort Lavoris taught him.
As the team races onto the field, Javoris jogs to the 5-yard line, drops to one knee and bows his head to pray.
"Our dad didn't grow up going to church, but then when we were little he started taking all of us to Hope of Glory and we saw how important his faith was," said Javoris, who wears a necklace with a pendant that has a picture of him with Devoris and their dad. "That was just another of his examples we wanted to follow, and that's why I pray before every game, because he always reminded me any gift you have, like playing football, that's God given. Don't take it for granted."
With the memory of his father's words to "run angry — never let one or even two defenders bring you down," Javoris' physical style has led to an average of 8.8 yards per carry and he leads the Chargers with 713 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Devoris — who also admits to still being motivated by his dad's lasting advice: "Don't overthink things. Just play hard, and when you hit, make them remember you" — leads the team with 11 tackles for loss, nine sacks and three forced fumbles.
"Those two are really big reasons we've been so successful this season," said first-year CCS coach Phil Massey. "Both have high motors, and when you have guys with their size and speed who play as hard as they do on every play, that's hard for opponents to deal with.
"When I first got here, Devoris was the first kid to welcome me to CCS. He just has such a big personality, and I've watched how kind he is to everyone in the halls. Javoris is a great kid, but you can tell he keeps things in more. A lot of that emotion he holds in, I think he lets come out when he's on the field because you can see a difference in how hard he plays.
"It's interesting because I think Javoris may feel like he's in the shadow socially, but Devoris feels that way on the field because his brother gets a lot of attention there. They definitely complement each other, and both those kids are a credit to how their parents have raised them."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.