Prep football: Sibling rivalry drives Judge brothers
Judge High football coach James Cordova often faces a size- and depth-challenged roster, so he appreciates the Barnett clan.
And why shouldn't he? Oldest brother Jack has moved on, but he turned himself into a Division I football player. The freshman at Army was a contributor on Cordova's last team to make the Class 3A semifinal round.
Now it's time for the next wave. Mark is a junior, a hard-hitting cornerback and a running back. Max is one of the key underclassmen, a sophomore starter at linebacker who is difficult to block when rushing the passer.
Yes, Cordova really likes what he has in the Barnett clan.
"Families with four boys are always good for a high-school football coach," Cordova said.
The Barnett brothers figure to play a major role for a Bulldogs team with high hopes this season. The two are close in age and closer in friendship. They are intensely competitive to the point where they have come to blows in the past. It's a part of being brothers.
"Max thinks he can beat me," Mark said with a laugh. "So sometimes I have to be the big brother even though I'm smaller and show him that I still have the upper hand. Seriously, I couldn't imagine playing without him. I hope that we play with each other past high school. He's my best friend as well as my brother."
The competition filters to the rest of the team, and it's something Cordova takes advantage of. If he wants a certain rep in the weight room or a certain number of lifts, all he has to do is play one against the other.
"I'll tell Max that Mark just hit a certain weight and that I don't think he can do the same thing," Cordova said. "That usually brings out the best in him. And it's vice versa as well. It doesn't matter whether it's a game of checkers or playing for a state title. Those are two of the most competitive kids on my team."
But more than anything, the two don't want to play a snap without each other. Max tore a ligament in his thumb trying to fix a facemask the day before the season opener. Mark spent the next 24 hours fretting that he would be forced to play without his right hand.
The two watch for each other on and off the field, a trait they learned from Jack, who so often has implored his younger siblings to watch out for each other.
"It's a little natural," Max said. "We're very close because we grew up together. We've always been tight, so it's comforting and exciting that we're out there playing together. I'm blocking for him and he's blocking for me.
"Family is the most important thing. We always come home and have dinner with each other. It's just great to be by his side."
Max and Mark Barnett start on offense and defense for Judge.
Jack Barnett was a main cog in Judge's offense a season ago.
The three have a younger brother who will go to Judge, starting next season.