On Friday, Leesville Road (N.C.) High was led to a playoff victory by a quarterback named Berrios, just as they have in each and every game this season. The difference in this win for the 11-0 Pride was all about that quarterback's first name: It was Braxton Berrios rather than Austin Berrios.
Yes, the Berrioses are brothers. Yes, they both play the same position for the same team. More poignantly, while Braxton Berrios is now the man at the helm in the state playoffs, the News & Observer reported that he really wishes he wasn't in that position at all, because he was only forced into the quarterback spot because of a major, season-ending injury to his older brother, Austin.
"Once I heard that I knew he was done for the game," Braxton Berrios told the News & Observer of his brother's injury during the team's senior night. "Seeing him go down was honestly my worse fear."
At the time, Braxton Berrios was lining up as a receiver for Leesville Road, serving as both a primary target and blocker for his brother, depending on whether the play from the sideline called for a pass or a run. Suddenly, he was taking the role that his senior brother had cherished holding for an entire season.
With a run-heavy mix, the younger Berrios made the adjustment with aplomb, rushing for 245 yards and three touchdowns in Leesville Road's huge victory against Wake Forest-Rolesville (N.C.) High. A week later, Braxton Berrios was even better, leading a 561-yard rushing offense that flattened Broughton (N.C.) High to set up a rematch against Wake Forest-Rolesville in the playoffs' second round.
After 11 wins, no one is questioning whether Leesville Road has the talent to win a state title, in large part because Berrios is at the helms. The surprise is just which Berrios it is, and how he has responded in his brother's and team's time of need.
"We have a type of bond that you can't create with anyone else," Austin Berrios told the News & Observer. "Just having him be there makes it easier.
"It's difficult watching. It's a lot different. It will be a challenge for him, but I think he'll be ready to do it."
Braxton Berrios agrees.
"[Austin] always tell me we can still do it," he said. "It's hard hearing it come from him because he can't be out there, but it helps."