LITHIA — Newsome running backs Conner and Keller Powers have always had their share of rivalries growing up on the athletic fields and parks around south Brandon. But the competition really heats up when the brothers pick up their video game controllers and go at it on sports games like John Madden football.
"It can get pretty heated," Conner said. "I'd say I win about 50 percent of the time."
And while the Powers boys play against each other on a virtual field, they are sharing the backfield on Newsome's surprising team this year.
"It's great playing with him. I love it," Keller, a freshman, said. "We're always there to cheer on each other and he motivates me."
Although both boys made names for themselves with the Pinecrest Pilots, a local youth football club, Conner played up in weight class due to his size.
"They sometimes were on the same baseball team growing up, but never in football," their mother, Maggie Powers, said. "But the boys were always close and supportive of each other."
Now, despite their ages, the brothers are an integral part of Newsome's 6-2 start. Conner is a sophomore and Keller was the only freshman to make the varsity team when the season opened.
"Making varsity as a freshman was my first goal," Keller said. "Conner did it, so anything less than that would have been a disappointment."
In Conner's freshman year, he ran for nearly 1,000 yards for the 5-5 Wolves. He's on pace for those numbers again in 2008, but this season his younger brother is also getting some looks.
The Powers brothers combined for 209 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries last week against Plant City.
But it couldn't have come in more different ways.
Conner is a bruising back with a burst who finds holes even when one isn't there
"I'm a straight-ahead guy," he said. "It's all about north-south running."
Keller, on the other hand, prefers to juke defenders.
"I put my head down when I have to," Keller said. "But I'd rather make people miss."
Although their running styles differ, the Powers are in lockstep when it comes to the ultimate goal — making the playoffs for the first time in Newsome's history.
"It's what we're working for every day of the week," Conner said of reaching the postseason. "We're so ready."
But when the lights cut off and the stands have emptied, the Powers boys often find themselves locked in a heated Madden football battle. So, Keller, was your brother's 50-percent winning percentage comment accurate?
"There is absolutely no way," he said. "I would say it's about 70-30 me. At the least."
Spoken like a brother.
Armwood (8-0) at Freedom (2-5)
Last week: Armwood beat Hillsborough, 46-7, and Freedom defeated Middleton, 17-7.
Quick count: I've talked to a number of coaches and media that have covered prep football in this area for many years. The consensus is that this is the best team Armwood has ever had. And that says a lot.
Wright's pick: Armwood
Bloomingdale (5-2) at Brandon (1-6)
Last week: The Bulls beat East Bay 28-7 and Brandon had a bye.
Quick count: Bloomingdale is a win away from guaranteeing a season above .500 for the first time in school history. And believe it or not, a playoff berth is right around the corner for these Bulls.
Wright's pick: Bloomingdale
Newsome (6-2) at East Bay (3-4)
Last week: The Wolves won 27-14 against Plant City and the Indians were defeated 28-7 by Bloomingdale.
Quick count: A win tonight puts Newsome in the playoffs for the first time in school history. The Wolves offense has been clicking of late and the defense has been stout all year. Welcome to the postseason, Newsome.
Wright's pick: Newsome
Jesuit (4-3) at Spoto (3-3)
Last week: Palmetto defeated Jesuit 24-3 and the Spartans blanked Booker 7-0.
Quick count: Spoto has been a dangerous team all year, despite the forfeits. A win tonight gets the Spartans into the playoffs, where they will also be a dangerous team for any first-round opponent.
Wright's pick: Spoto
Tampa Catholic (5-2) at Lennard (4-4)
Last week: The Crusaders defeated Mulberry 24-13 and the Longhorns beat Lake Placid 20-17.
Quick count: Quarterback Christian Green threw the Crusaders on his back last season and nearly took TC all the way to the state title. Expect some serious fireworks through the air tonight.
Wright's pick: Tampa Catholic
Wharton (6-2) at Riverview (1-6)
Last week: The Wildcats beat Mitchell 37-19 and the Sharks downed Sarasota 13-0.
Quick count: It was a big week around the halls at Riverview. The Sharks pulled off a stunner last week against Sarasota. Was it a fluke or a sign of things to come?
Wright's pick: Wharton