Brothers have a way of getting into it for the simplest of reasons. Ratcheting up the stakes with uniforms, bright lights and a season-opening high school football game? It’s on.
“Oh, I’m going to get him,” Thurgood Marshall senior defensive back Jerome Shepherd Jr. said of his “little” brother Jeremiah Shepherd of Northmont.
“I’m not going to hit him dirty, but I’ll let him know that big brother still has it. I’m going to let him know that I’m still here.”
Thurgood will play Northmont in today’s 8:30 p.m. nightcap of a Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown doubleheader at Welcome Stadium. Trotwood-Madison will play Springfield in the 6 p.m. opener.
It’s rare that a Division I school like Northmont would play a D-III such as Thurgood because of the playoff ramifications. That’s what makes this an intriguing non-league opener.
It also will be personal for at least one family.
“It’s really exciting,” said the father of both players, Jerome Shepherd, a Belmont grad who played college ball at Findlay.
“We’ve got family coming in from out of town. A lot of friends are asking me what side will you sit on and support that day? I still haven’t made that decision yet.”
Jerome Jr., 6 foot, 175 pounds, is in his second season with the Cougars after transferring from Northmont and relocating with his grandfather. He rotates in the secondary.
Jeremiah, a 5-11, 234-pound sophomore offensive lineman, is a reserve with the Thunderbolts.
Odds are against their colliding on the field. If so, “I gotta do what I gotta do,” assured Jeremiah. “We’ve been trash talking, but it’s dialed down.”
This game is similar to the rarified Alter at Centerville game in 2010. Thurgood (12-2) couldn’t convert enough extra points and fell 34-33 to Bellevue in the D-III state semifinals last season.
Northmont (7-3) shook off a couple of lean seasons and earned a share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference Central Division title, but still couldn’t advance to the postseason.
With a seventh division added this fall and nearly half of the D-I teams advancing, both teams should also play in Week 11 games.
“It’s going to be one of those matchups that don’t come around too often,” Jerome Jr. said. “I really am proud of my brother. He’s been working hard. It’s going to be a good game for him to experience.”