The Stephenson twins, Ben and Matt, look like bookends playing at opposite ends of the field for Centennial's fifth-ranked boys soccer team. That's where the similarities end.
"They are totally different types," Centennial coach Bill Stara said. "Matt is an attacking player and Ben is a defensive or midfield player. Both are aggressive and technically better than average. I'm very happy with them."
The remarkable freshmen are a large part of the reason Centennial continues to win after losing three starting players to suspension and one to an injury.
Matt plays striker and the 15-year-old has five goals and two assists. Ben stepped into the sweeper position three games ago against Walt Whitman, then the top-ranked team in Washington, following the suspension for the season of three teammates. He had been playing midfield. He had one practice to learn his new position.
"Ben is a jack-of-all-trades and has done everything we've asked in a difficult situation," Stara said. "He's a hunter and has been the cornerstone of our defense ever since the Whitman game. Matt is creative with the ball and can beat you one-on-one."
The Stephensons (both 5 feet 9, 130 pounds) are identical twins. Only the braces on Matt's teeth offer a way to distinguish them. But Ben will be getting his braces soon.
"Our parents have trouble telling us apart and sometimes that's irritating," Matt said. "And none of our friends can," said Ben.
C7 They are in most of the same classes. They like the
same college football teams (Alabama, Nebraska). Mexican food No. 1 for both, with pizza and Chinese food right behind.
They have the same taste in clothes. "Sometimes just one of us goes clothes shopping and just buys two of the same thing because he's sure the other one will like it," Ben said.
They sleep in the same bedroom, although that will change when their sister, Stephanie, goes off to college next year.
Stara describes them as "All-American kids."
They were born in Omaha, Neb., and moved to this area 10 years ago. They started playing soccer at 7. Six years ago they made their first travel team, the Hornets. That team won a regional championship in 1990. Last
year they played for the under-15 Darby team coached by Stara and won a second regional title as Matt averaged a goal per game.
They've traveled as far as Dallas to play with the state team and will be going to Florida with the Olympic Development Program under-15 regional team over Thanksgiving weekend.
Their father, Steve, played high school football in Alabama. But their mother, Linda, didn't want them to play football so they turned to soccer. They also played basketball and baseball, but gave up those sports to play soccer year-round.
But they still were nervous about playing high school soccer this fall.
"We were scared to death the first day because we had heard all these stories about how hard we were going to get hit. But it wasn't that bad," Ben said. "Just a lot of bruises."
Despite their accomplishments, they still are treated like freshmen by their older teammates and must do whatever they're told to do, such as bagging balls after practice.
"I feel like a freshman," Ben said. "Other teams don't like to hear that you are a freshman if you are playing well against them. It makes them mad and then they try to hit you hard."
Both are surprised by the important roles they are playing.
"I thought I'd make the team but would be sitting on he bench," Matt said.
Stara is pleased with the progress of both players.
"High school is obviously a different brand of ball and they had to learn how to play against older kids," Stara said.