Riverside High's DiMario Caesar and Josh Covington are the best of friends, always together, one rarely seen without the other. They are united by their love of football, their thirst for the game. They are bonded by their fondness for playing quarterback, for their desire to orchestrate an offense, to run the show.
"We're great friends," said Covington, a junior.
"Good friends. Close friends," said Caesar, a senior.
There was reason to wonder whether that camaraderie might be strained in the week leading up to Thursday's 101st Harvard Cup championship game in All High Stadium, resentment carrying right over into Thanksgiving Day itself. Caesar had led the Frontiers through the first seven games of the season, stamped them as a contender. Covington had guided them the rest of the way, running the offense in place of his fallen comrade after Caesar suffered a severe high ankle sprain a month ago.
And now, with Caesar back healthy, a dilemma had arisen. Who was coach Tony Truilizio going to play in the biggest game of the year? Would his decision spark a rift?
Riverside, which had last won the Harvard Cup in 1972, was only three seasons removed from 0-9. This was no time to drive a wedge into the works.
Truilizio and his staff arrived at their decision Saturday night, after that day's practice had confirmed Caesar's ankle was fine, that his mobility was no longer compromised.
"I felt DiMario got us pretty darn far," the coach said. "He's been with me for two years, and I owed it to him to have him start the game. And I knew Josh is strong enough mentally to handle the understanding that it's Mario's team this year and next year it's going to be Josh's team.
"But I wanted to utilize both quarterbacks. I knew Josh would remain poised in there. Mario's intensity and option reads are just tremendous. So we wanted to give them a one-two punch, keep them on their heels."
Riverside had Hutch-Tech guessing, all right. It put up the first points of a 19-14 victory with a 62-yard, first-quarter drive in which Caesar and Covington both played integral roles out of the quarterback spot.
It was Caesar who found wideout Michael Martin over the middle, hitting him in stride with a perfectly thrown spiral that enabled Martin to ramble 56 yards to the Engineers' 5. It was Covington who finished the march, plunging in from the 3 to put Riverside ahead, 6-0, on its way to a 19-0 advantage.
"We had to come out and put up points first and get them off their game," Covington said. "And that's exactly what we did."
Truilizio has done wonders turning around the Riverside program. He came on after the winless season and had the Frontiers in the playoffs last year. The momentum has been building within, if unrecognized on the perimeter.
"The beginning of the season they didn't even have us ranked as a playoff team," Caesar said. "We were the underdogs and everything. For us to pull out a win like this, it's a big upset for everybody right here. We just wanted to prove to everybody we were the champs for real."
The Frontiers made it happen thanks to the maturity of their quarterbacks, two tightly bound players who realized there's more than enough glory to go around, that what works for one works for both, works for them all.
"We hang out outside of school, in school, after practice, before practice," Covington said. "We're always together."
And they were together on a snowy championship day, beneath a silver sky, sharing the thrill of the accomplishment.
"I stepped up when I needed to and brought us here," Covington said. "And we both finished them off."