Fauquier High School senior tight end John Stuart has learned there are several advantages to having his younger brother, junior Michael Stuart, as starting quarterback of their high school football team.
There's the extra practice time they get at home or on vacation and the innate understanding they have as brothers. But the best thing is John can demand the ball at all times.
"I yell at my brother a lot," said John, the starting tight end for the Falcons.
"I like it when he throws the ball early, but he tends to throw it late. Since I'm his older brother, I'm allowed to yell at him."
The coaches don't mind.
"That's just brotherly love," Fauquier Coach Tom Ferrell said. "It all started last year when Mike overthrew John on a pass pattern. John vented his anger on Mike when he got back to the bench. Both are very competitive, and that's good."
Football season officially begins Friday night, with Park View hosting Sherando and Loudoun County traveling to Jefferson County (W. Va.). Fauquier travels to Williamsburg to face Lafayette, a Group AA Division 4 finalist in 1998, and the Stuarts are hoping they can build on the success they had last season.
Last year was John's first starting on the varsity, and he was named second-team all-Northwestern District as a tight end and defensive back. He caught 23 passes for 327 yards and four touchdowns for the season. He also returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown.
Michael made his varsity debut at quarterback against Sherando on Sept. 25, 1998, sharing time with incumbent starter Kelvin Benimon. Michael completed 8 of 14 passes for 139 yards against the Warriors.
John was his favorite target--he caught five passes for 114 yards, including a last-second, 33-yard touchdown reception.
"I don't think I look for John all the time," Michael said. "But in that Sherando game, it seemed like he was always open."
Michael became the full-time starting quarterback by the seventh game of the season. He ended up completing 38 of 88 passes for 470 yards; 18 of those passes were caught by John.
Having his brother as a receiver "is a big advantage on the field, because I have a feel for what he's going to do," Michael said. "After all, I've known him all my life. I know what he's thinking."
During the family's two-week vacation to North Carolina this summer, John and Michael ran through pass patterns on the beach ("half-serious and half-goofing around," according to John).
Every once in a while at home, the two brothers drag their father, Paul, into their large front yard to throw around the ball.
John may be the older brother, but once the games begin, Michael becomes the boss on the field.
"In the huddle, Mike is the one who's supposed to talk," John said. "It's weird, because that's my little brother. A lot of times, he'll be the only one talking.
"If I'm trying to pump up the guys, sometimes Mike will tell me to shut up. And according to Coach [Ferrell], I have to shut up and listen to Mike."
"In the huddle, I get to tell people what to do, and my brother has to do what I say. That feels good," Michael said. "But I'll hear about it after the game. He'll ask me if I remember so-and-so play from the game, and then he'll tell me he was wide open."
CAPTION: "I yell at my brother a lot. . . . Since I'm his older brother, I'm allowed to yell at him," senior John Stuart (61) says.
CAPTION: After sharing time last season, junior Michael is the undisputed No. 1 quarterback this year. Of his 88 pass attempts in 1998, he completed 38, including 18 to his brother, who was named second-team all-Northwestern District as a tight end and defensive back.