LaFAYETTE, Ga. — For decades, football coaches have strived to incorporate closeness within their teams.
Now, though, the question has to be asked: Can you have too much of a family atmosphere? At LaFayette, the Ramblers might be pushing the limit, and it's starting to take its toll on the coaching staff.
"There's usually confusion involved on a daily basis," said head coach Chad Fisher, unable to keep a straight face. "It's interesting around here, to be sure."
Fisher, in his third season at the Walker County school, has a robust roster of 85 players, a good number for a Class AAAA program. Nearly a quarter of them are sets of brothers.
"We've got nine sets of brothers on the team," smiles Fisher. "I've never been involved with anything like this before. The biggest challenge is I get most of them mixed up. I can't tell them apart at all."
One pair of brothers are twins. The only thing that's somewhat saved Fisher is that Grant and Grayson Blaschke happen to be his next-door neighbors.
"Most people can't tell us apart, but Coach Fisher is actually pretty good at it," Grayson said. "He had trouble at first. It's kind of cool to have your coach as your neighbor as long as I stay on his good side.
"Really, it's a lot of fun here. Me and Grant moved here from Colorado, and we only had each other as friends. Now we've made friends with pretty much everybody on the team. Hey, we all have to be close."
If they weren't, Fisher said, things could go south quickly. As it is, although the older siblings usually rule, the team gets along.
"Seriously, this is a close group," Fisher said. "Now, the younger brothers get picked on by the older ones, but it's not bad."
Clayton Lane is a three-year starting senior at running back and linebacker, one of the team's leaders, and now he gets to add mentor to his responsibilities. Freshman brother Colton, a running back and defensive back, is getting to learn the right way to do things instead of just hearing about it.
For Clayton, the experience is something he plans to cherish.
"He's a talented freshman," he said of Colton. "I didn't think he would perform like he has, because he was kind of average in middle school. I'm happy for him and he's really learned a lot. I think it's pretty cool. This is the first year me and my brother have ever played on the same team. It's the person you've grown up with your whole life, and it's always been my dream to play with him."
Of course, the little brother can't get the upper hand very often. It would upset the delicate balance of, you know, brotherhood.
"We've been playing together for the past few years now," said senior Trevor Bowman, brother of junior Nathan Bowman. "I'm the better player, of course. The older brother is always better. He's not really a bad player — it's just that I can't ever say he has the edge on me.
"The brothers around here all work together really well. It's always fun to run your little brother over. You can always pick him up and do it again the next play."
Ahh, nothing like that family feeling, right, Coach?
"We always say we're trying to build a family atmosphere," Fisher said, "and I can truly say we have at LaFayette."
— Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296; follow at Twitter@youngsports22