HIGHLAND — Regardless of what happens in Friday afternoon’s 6A championship football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, there will be some interesting conversations in the Highland, Alpine and American Fork communities this weekend.
That’ll especially be the case in the Highland 37th Ward.
Chase Roberts and Jared Fotu live in the same neighborhood, attend the same church, participate in the same Priest quorum, have been key varsity contributors since their sophomore seasons and are good friends. But the two athletes will be on opposite sides of the field, wearing different colors and uniforms, during the final football game of the season.
They aren't related, but this game could be billed as the Battle of the Brothers.
Brother Roberts is a star receiver for American Fork High.
Brother Fotu is a standout linebacker for Lone Peak High.
In a way, their relationship symbolizes this intriguing state title matchup of these two schools from the northeast part of Utah County. It’s friend vs. friend. Neighbor vs. neighbor. Talented and good-natured trash-talker from the ward vs. talented and good-natured trash-talker from the ward.
Brother vs Brother.
“It’s actually pretty cool being in the same ward as him,” Fotu said of Roberts, “because obviously he’s a real good player and it’s a big rivalry in the state of Utah here, A.F. and Lone Peak. It’s just awesome.”
“He’s a stud,” Roberts said of Fotu. “So we’ve been talking. We’re still good friends, but right now it’s a little more distant since we have the game.”
Fotu smiled while describing their friendly-foe relationship, which includes updates about their seasons and, of course, fun trash-talking. Fotu admitted Roberts teasingly gave him “an earful” after A.F.’s 51-21 win over the Knights in September. The two had a “hyped-up conversation” about the championship game at church this past Sunday after A.F. edged Bingham in an overtime thriller and the Knights crushed Pleasant Grove in the semifinals.
“We’re just so ready for this game, ready to play them,” Fotu said.
“We’re both excited. He’s been talking,” Roberts said, smiling. “They have a game plan for us. He’s very confident and we’re very confident. It’s just going to be a battle and I’m excited to compete and go against my friends and Lone Peak.”
Adam Willson, one of their church leaders, joked with Fotu that the only way Lone Peak was able to beat the Cavemen this season was in a coin flip. Jokes aside, Willson couldn’t be more proud of the two fine young men who represent their schools — and the Highland 37th Ward — so impressively by their actions on and off the field. He’s elated that these two teenagers who bless the sacrament together every Sunday are playing each other for a championship.
Whatever the outcome, their church friends win.
“Whoever wins this Friday, I know the other will be truly happy for the success as will the other show remorse and console the other," Willson said. "(There’s) not an arrogant bone in their body. These are two of the nicest boys you’ll ever meet. They are popular, not because they are cool or athletic or good looking, but because they are nice and humble and full of integrity.”
Roberts and Fotu both joke about how they tried to recruit each other to switch schools when they ended up in the same ward a year or so ago.
Neither player plans on skipping out on church if they lose.
"I don't think either of us are that kind of person," Fotu said, grinning.
Of course, neither plans on losing, either.
“I think we’ll both be there,” Fotu said, smiling. “I think it will probably be sad for one of us, but I don’t think that’s going to be me.”
Roberts wants to finish out a longtime dream he’s shared with a friend who happens to be on the same team. The BYU-bound receiver and his talented QB buddy, Boone Abbott, have talked for years about finishing their playing days together with one final championship.
“It’s been fun to have Booner. We’ve grown up together, just playing and dominating. We won the championship every year from second grade to seventh grade, so we know what it’s like to win,” Roberts said. “We come out here and we win games. It’s been fun to get back and be together again and be able to compete.”
Fotu said Lone Peak took that blowout loss to his ward member’s team — and rival to the south — very hard. Because of the way the Knights responded, though, the setback ended up being a season-changing and defining moment. They’ve won six straight since that loss.6 comments on this story
“We’re a whole different team,” Fotu said. “After that game, all of us were discouraged, all of us were pretty mad. We met together just as a team, just the players, no coaches. We talked about the rest of the season, how crucial every game the rest of the season was to win. We set a goal to win a region championship and we tied it (with A.F.), but obviously we still count that as a win. And our second goal was to win a state championship … and it’s time to execute that goal.”
Roberts and his Cavemen teammates are the only things standing in the Knights’ and Fotu's way.
"I think it's awesome. We're literally down the street from American Fork. It's a very big rivalry," Fotu said. "I know they're ready and I know we’re ready."
A title and ward bragging rights are on the line.