Sibling rivalry hits the gridiron

By: Eric Gourley, Gold Country News Service
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For one Loomis-area football family, next week’s season opener at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas is much more than the first-ever meeting between UNLV and Sacramento State. Brian Heath, a senior blocking tight end and long snapper for the Hornets, will play against his younger brother Jason, a freshman offensive lineman with the Rebels, when the teams collide on Sept. 5. “We’re really excited about it,” said Julie Heath, their mother. “How many times does this happen in a person’s lifetime?” Both Heaths were standouts on the gridiron at Del Oro High, but never walked the same sideline. “This is a great opportunity for both of the boys and their family,” said Casey Taylor, who coached the Heaths two seasons each and is looking forward to the varsity arrival of Zach, the youngest of the three brothers, next fall. Jason was a sophomore with the junior varsity squad the season Brian helped the Golden Eagles to a section title as a senior in 2005. “It’ll be the first time that we’ve been on the field together at the same time since we were like five years old,” Brian said. “It’s just so cool.” Brian knew he’d likely be playing against his brother before Jason made an August 2007 decision to play at UNLV rather than Sacramento State’s cross-causeway rival, UC Davis — his second choice. “Sacramento signed UNLV (onto the schedule) my sophomore year and when Jason committed I was like, ‘Dude, we’re going to be playing each other in a couple years,’” the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Brian said. Jason, a 6-foot-3 280-pounder who red-shirted last year, currently figures to be the backup center and hopes to help the Division-I Rebels improve on a 5-7 campaign that included a win over Arizona State. After a week home in Loomis, he returned to Nevada Wednesday afternoon for the start of training camp Thursday. “This game isn’t about us,” Jason said. “It’s about the team. Before and after the game we’re still going to give each other our hug and talk, but when the ball’s kicked off it’s go-time.” Brian and longtime teammate Bill Sherman, also a member of Del Oro’s 2005 section champion, helped the Hornets to a 6-6 finish in 2008, just the team’s fourth non-losing season in 15 years. “It’s definitely going to be a good year,” said Brian, who begins official practice Monday. “We finished off last year really positive — one of the best seasons in a few years. Hopefully we can live up to the expectations.” Julie Heath and a group of 15-20 friends and family members will make the trek from Loomis to Sin City the first weekend in September for the highly anticipated showdown. “People realize it’s probably the last time we’re ever going to be on the same field together,” Brian said. “It’s just a cool opportunity for everyone to see us both play at the same time.” Special shirts — half scarlet and gray and half green and gold — will feature “Heath” on the back. “We still have to design the numbers so they’re both represented on there,” Julie said. For the Heath brothers, what happens in Vegas next week won’t stay in Vegas. “There are definitely going to be bragging rights for the rest of our lives,” Brian said.