WALLA WALLA - It might be a little confusing on the sidelines of the second annual Holy Bowl football game between DeSales and Tri-Cities Prep tonight at Ty Baffney Field if you aren't familiar with the Brown and Richards families.
Mark Brown, father of Irish offensive and defensive lineman Anthony Brown, will be wearing a Jaguars Washington state Class 1B-8 championship sweatshirt with Tri-City Prep kicker and defensive back Brian Richards' name and number 24 on the back.
Shari Richards, mother of Brian Richards, will be wearing a DeSales sweatshirt with Anthony Brown's name and number 77 on the back.
Did brother and sister, Mark and Shari, accidentally swap sweatshirts?
Nope, they're just supporting their nephews. Anthony and Brian are first cousins who happen to play on either side of the field for the Southeast 2B Holy Bowl matchup between the two Catholic schools in the league.
Both Mark and Shari attended and played athletics at DeSales.
And, despite having sons and players on the other's team, they've figured out a way to keep the rivalry friendly.
"I think it's all good fun and games and family," Shari Richards said. "It's just a lot of fellowship for the boys to be going through. It's only the second year, so it's not a furious rivalry."
"I just hope it's a good game," Mark Brown said. "Prep football is the purest football there is. It (the rivalry) is kind of a friendly one. I'm just glad they both (Anthony and Brian) both go to Catholic schools."
The friendly feelings don't just extend to the boys' parents. Playing the unbiased grandfather at last season's first Holy Bowl at Pasco's Chiawana High
school, Mark and Shari's dad, Eulon Brown, popped Jaguar and Irish hats on his head when each team was on offense.
And as a good aunt and uncle, Mark and Shari follow their nephews' athletic careers from 40 miles away when DeSales and Tri-Cities Prep aren't playing each other.
"I used to watch Brian play Touchet when Tri-Cities Prep was an 8-man team," Mark said.
"We watch DeSales' standings in all sports," Shari said.
Anthony Brown has been playing football in Walla Walla since his days in the Walla Walla Youth Football League, which coincidentally has its Super Bowls Saturday evening at nearby Martin Field.
Anthony now plays the positions his dad played with the Irish 30 years ago.
"He weighs more than I did," Mark said of Anthony. "I was 179 (pounds), and he's pushing 200 right now. And he's probably an inch and a half taller than I am.
"He doesn't play as well as I did, though!"
Anthony also competes in field events for the DeSales track team.
"He likes track because it's just about him," Mark said.
Anthony is exploring college scholarships in his senior season at DeSales, and might continue his track career after he graduates, Mark said.
Brian also plays baseball for the Jaguars, and plans to study engineering after graduating Tri-Cities Prep this spring. He visited St. Martin's University near Tacoma last weekend, Shari said.
"He's looking for the best place to go," she said.
Festivities before tonight's game, which is sponsored by the local Knights of Columbus, include a tailgate party from 4-6:30 p.m. hosted by the Walla Walla Knights with chili and hot dogs for $5. Holy Bowl T-shirts will be available, a trophy will be presented to the winning team, and a sportsmanship award will be given to a player on each team.
It's also DeSales' last regular-season home game, and seniors will be honored at halftime.
Last year, the first Holy Bowl came down to a 2-point conversion in the fourth quarter of DeSales' 22-20 victory. The Irish made a fourth-quarter conversion, and the Jaguars missed for the difference in the game.
A similar tightly-contested matchup tonight is desired by the Browns and Richards, but despite the friendly Brown-Richards family rivalry, loyalties still remain with each son's team.
"We have to win," Mark said of the Irish, who are in a battle for second place as the SE2B season winds down. "But a close game is a good game."
"It's really a good time," Shari said of the annual game. "What is really nice, for me having gone to DeSales, is to go to games and see all these people I graduated with or went to school with. They're there with their kids, and the family connections are incredible. Grandparents are in the stands, too. It's kind of a reunion for everybody.
"Of course, I've got to root for my son's school," she said. "But good luck to DeSales. It should be a good game."