These are really two exceptional young men. These are young men who are honest and decent young men, who have integrity and heart; they love each other to death, they find joy in each other's accomplishments. —Sharyol Mansfield
For the Mansfield family, Friday night's Clearfield-Davis football game was a very special, unique experience.
After all, how often do grandparents — in this case, Dennis and Sharyol Mansfield of Roy — get to sit back and watch (or stand up and shout) as two of their grandsons, both senior starters for their respective high school teams, play against each other in a varsity league game?
Not very often, I'm sure.
But that's precisely what took place Friday night at Kaysville, where longtime Davis County rivals Clearfield and Davis squared off for their Region 1 opener with two of Dennis and Sharyol's grandsons, Jaxon and Zack, each playing prominent roles.
Jaxon Mansfield, the son of Trent and Alisa Mansfield of Syracuse, is Clearfield High's starting quarterback and also starts at safety for the Falcons. His cousin Zack Mansfield, the son of Dr. Justin and Alicia Mansfield of Farmington, is a starting wide receiver and also serves as a kick return specialist for Davis High.
So there they were, out on the field together, two cousins who have grown up together and have a very close relationship. And up in the stands, close to 30 members of the extended Mansfield family in all, including six of Dennis and Sharyol's daughters, along with some of their spouses and many of their kids, were there to cheer on both of the young men who were each trying to help their team earn a victory.
Many of them had their faces painted — half in Clearfield green, the other half in Davis gold — with the two players' uniform numbers (2 for Jaxon, 21 for Zack) painted on their faces as well. One son-in-law even painted his beard both colors, and family members held signs that said "Go Zack" and "Go Jaxon" and "Team Mansfield."
For the record, the Falcons came away with a 20-0 victory over the Darts, the first time Clearfield has beaten its neighbors to the south since 2007.
But on this night, football took a back seat to family and the love and support that they feel for each other.
And the Mansfield family soaked it all in.
"I didn't think it was tough to watch that game," Sharyol said. "You see these two young men and, yes, they both want to win and they've been given strong minds and strong bodies to take advantage of the opportunity to play the game that they love. And they go out on the field to win, they both do.
"But somebody has to win, somebody has to lose, and we went into that game knowing that full well. But that doesn't mean you aren't as excited when one or the other makes a great play, and to see the two of them hugging on the field was just the cutest thing — I could hardly stand it. They're both team captains, so they walked out together to the middle of the field before the game and hugged each other."
The two grandsons played on a couple of comp baseball teams together when they were young, but they never got to play football together growing up because they lived in different cities. And they hadn't played against each other until Friday's memorable matchup.
"The game was all about the anticipation; we've been waiting our entire adult lives for these kids to be seniors," said Jaxon's father Trent Mansfield, who was an All-State football and baseball player at Roy High, where he also played basketball before graduating in 1992. "Fortunately the stars aligned that they were in the same region this year and we anticipated them being able to play each other, and it's the culmination of all their years of playing sports.
"The bad part about it was that, unfortunately, they played for two different teams, so we never got to see Zack play really unless they played on a different night or a different day or something like that. So we really haven't had a chance to see each other's kids play. Justin and Alicia haven't really got to see Jax play, and Alisa and I haven't really got to see Zack play because we always play at the same time.
"The hardest time for me was when they went out at midfield as captains and hugged each other," admitted Trent, the unofficial winner of the "Tom Cruise Lookalike Contest" who played wide receiver and defensive back in high school. "Alisa was sobbing. She was like, 'Oh, my gosh, that's the greatest thing ever.' There was some fun banter going back and forth between ’em on a few plays during the game, just teasing each other."
Jaxon and the Falcons are off to one of their strongest starts in several years, as Friday's win raised their record to 3-1. Jaxon has certainly played a big part in that success, throwing for 657 yards and five touchdowns while running for 159 yards and two more TDs in the Falcons' first four games.
"You've gotta be very proud of a bunch of young men who, two years ago, went 0-10, and then last year went 2-8, and yet they still came back this year determined to turn things around," Dennis Mansfield said. "They go to practice every day and run their tails off and sweat like a pig.
"And this year they're showing that all that hard work they've put in has finally paid off and they've been able to improve their performance so much."
Asked how he enjoyed Friday's game, Dennis pointed out some of the non-football aspects of the experience.
"I did a lot of eating — Rice Krispie treats, peanut brittle, popcorn," he said with a laugh. "And what was interesting was the people on the Davis side. When we all sat over there, I don't think they've ever experienced the Mansfield tribe like that when we all showed up."
Justin Mansfield, the oldest of Dennis and Sharyol's nine children, also played football and baseball at Roy High. He was a wide receiver and cornerback in football and played second base and shortstop in baseball, earning Academic All-State honors in both sports before graduating in 1989.
He and Trent are constantly texting back and forth to each other during their sons' games under the Friday night lights, but finally, for once, that wasn't necessary this past week.
And while Zack is having a solid senior season of his own for the Darts — he had a 45-yard reception against Clearfield and has one touchdown catch thus far — Justin agreed that Friday's game was about much more than football.
"Zack and Jaxon have been best friends since they were little boys," he said. "They both enjoy football and baseball and both will be starters on their schools' baseball teams in the spring.
"None of us ever really cared about the final score of that game. We all had a great time watching the game and being together. The sports bring us all together as a family, and I also like the fact that it keeps the kids out of trouble and away from video games and other distractions. Being on a team has taught the boys responsibility and how to work hard toward a common goal."
Sharyol, too, said having the whole family together for Friday night at the football game was great fun as the "Mansfield tribe" enthusiastically cheered for — imagine that — both teams.
She's very proud of her grandsons — and of their dads, too — and deservedly so.
"These are really two exceptional young men," she said of Zack and Jaxon. "These are young men who are honest and decent young men, who have integrity and heart; they love each other to death, they find joy in each other's accomplishments, and they have compassion and empathy for each other's disappointments.
"And they bring these characteristics onto the field. And yet they're humble enough to know that they can learn when they get on the field. They learn teamwork and hard work and fair play and good sportsmanship, and yet they appreciate the abilities and talents of the other young men on the field. And you see that. The young men you see on the field are the same two young men you see off the field. They are just darling. Now, that's coming from a grandmother's perspective, but you would have to search far and wide to find two finer young men than Jaxon and Zackery Mansfield.
"Now, having said that, that same thing was said 20 years ago about their dads," she said. "And the same thing still rings true. You would have to search long and hard to find two finer examples and two finer men than their dads, Justin and Trent Mansfield."
Spoken like a proud mom. But those who know them would certainly agree.