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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Dixon, left, and Dawson Riggins pose with their father, Darryl Riggins, center, at Silverdale Baptist Academy on Thursday.

Other than uniform numbers, they are almost indistinguishable. The only thing more enduring than people's inability to tell Dawson and Dixon Riggins apart is the bond between the identical twins.

The Silverdale Baptist Academy juniors are inseparable off the football field and help make up an improving offensive line as first-year starters.

"They've always been really tight," said their dad, Darryl, who's also a Seahawks assistant coach. "I took them for driving lessons and had to do it separately. That was the first time in 15 years that I could remember being alone with them individually. They could have their own bedrooms at home, but they still room together.

"I can tell them apart pretty easily, just by their mannerisms, but I don't think many other people can."

Part of the unshakable family bond has come from the shared grief of growing up without their mother, Karen, who died from cancer when the boys were only 3 years old. With the help of his in-laws and the extended Silverdale Baptist family, Darryl has raised his sons as a single parent.

"I've tried to do my best, but I've definitely had my questions about why the Lord would take a mother away from two precious babies," Darryl said. "We have her pictures all around the house, and they've asked questions from time to time about her. I know they've missed out on a lot by not getting to have a mom.

"I look at them and see how smart they are in school and how they're becoming good athletes and working so hard at everything they do, and I just wish she could see what type men they're becoming. She would be so proud."

Darryl, who played offensive line on a national championship team at Georgia Southern, joined the Silverdale middle school coaching staff before his sons were on the team and moved up to the varsity when Al Rogers took over the program.

Dawson, who's 15 minutes older, and Dixon spent their first two varsity seasons getting pushed around the practice field as backups. But after an offseason spent getting stronger in the weightroom, the 5-foot-11, 238-pounders worked their way into becoming the team's starting offensive tackles.

"They have come a long way since their freshman year," Rogers said. "Something clicked, and as they've gotten stronger they have really started to become good players for us. It's been fun to watch them come around as players and mature.

"They're definitely two of the hardest workers I've been around, and as a coach you can't ask for more than that. They're going to give you everything they've got, and if you chew their butt, they just smile and say 'Yes, sir' and try to be better."

Rogers has such a hard time telling the twins apart that he began calling them "Biscuit" (Dawson) and "Gravy" (Dixon).

"It's perfect for them because you can't have one without the other, and when you think about twins who are big old linemen, those nicknames just fit," Rogers added. "Their dad has done a phenomenal job raising them after the hand he was dealt.

"They're great young men and they're getting better on the field and hopefully becoming the type kids who will be leaders for us the rest of this season and next. We're painfully young this year, but we only lose one starter on the offensive line, so we should be pretty sound there next year, and the Riggins boys are a big reason for that."

The Seahawks, who travel for a nonregion game at rival Grace Academy on Friday night, have only four seniors on this year's team. Four of their five losses have come by fewer than two scores.

"Once we got in the weightroom and noticed we could move people around, that really started to change things for us," said Dixon, who is the more talkative of the two painfully shy brothers. "Because of injuries we got thrown out there last year, and everything came at us really fast. Now the game has slowed down, and you can actually remember what the coaches told you during practice. It just helps having more experience.

"We've always been really close as a family and like doing things together, so getting to be on the field every day with each other and with our dad is pretty special."

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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