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BAND OF BROTHERS

Bertha Winslett and Tina Evans waited outside the gate of Central's football field, sharing a laugh and a little reflection as their sons absorbed a final few moments under the Friday night lights.

As seniors, Willie Winslett and Chase Evans had played their last game as Bears, losing to New Smyrna Beach 40-6 in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.

As self-professed brothers, they vowed they always would be there for each other _ as they had since that day in their middle school cafeteria, when a long-forgotten girl brought them together.

"He wanted to fight me in the cafeteria over a girl," Evans said, the recollection subduing the tears.

So how did Evans, now 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, make it to seventh grade when this big kid, now 6-4, 270, had mayhem on his mind?

"I ran my way out of it," Evans laughed.

Realizing the folly of their ways, and that this girl maybe wasn't worth fighting over _ Evans easily was persuaded on that point _ the two became fast friends and have been calling themselves brothers ever since.

"Colors don't matter. It's all brotherly love," Winslett said. "Nothing will come between me and Chase. We don't fight over girls now. We just share them."

No one really remembers the girl's name.

"The girl left, and they stayed," Bertha Winslett said, laughing. "Since sixth grade, they've put themselves down, "Will and Chase, brothers,' everywhere, brothers."

The relationship has brought the mothers together, too.

"Willie's mine, and I know she claims Chase," said Tina Evans, who is godmother to Bertha's grandson, Theo.

Whether Willie Winslett and Chase Evans will remain together after school is a mystery. Their abilities on the field might create different paths.

Winslett, an offensive guard, is being recruited by several large programs in the Southeast, including Miami and Auburn. Evans, a quarterback and defensive back, is not.

"We'll see," Bertha Winslett said. "I'm sure the good Lord will make something work out."

And how about when they're old men, hands resting on guts, reclined on the couch, reminiscing about when they were youngsters on the gridiron? What will be their fondest memories of these times, of teams that went 26-16 and made three playoff appearances in their four years at Central?

"My brother," Evans said, smiling.

You get the feeling they'll be sitting on that couch together.

Staff writer Brant James can be reached at (800) 333-7505, Ext. 1407.

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