Brookwood running backs Nick Tompkins (32) and Jamaal Cole (23) have played football together ever since they were 6 and 7 years old. This is the last year that they will play together as Tomkins is leaving for college after this season.
The Broncos' head coach watched as Nick Tompkins racked up 109 yards in the first half against Walton. When the third quarter began, Jamaal Cole ripped off a 49-yard touchdown run.
Crews was worried. How would Tompkins respond to Cole's success? Would the two bicker over who carries the ball? Would it cause a rift with the team?
Crews was relieved when he looked over his shoulder.
"Those guys were high fiving each other and talking to each other," Crews said. "They are playing with a great team attitude."
TALKIN' FOOTBALL: Brookwood's standout backs
Gwinnett Daily Post editor Todd Cline and sports editor Will Hammock talk about the impact of Brookwood running back duo Nick Tompkins and Jamaal Cole.
There have never been any qualms over who gets to carry the ball with Tompkins and Cole. The Brookwood running backs have known each other since they were 6 and 7 years old. They've grown up in the same neighborhood, played on the same Gwinnett Football League and all-star baseball teams and been to each other's birthday parities.
The duo was Gwinnett's top running back tandem last season, rushing for more than 1,000 yards each to lead the Broncos to the Class AAAAA state championship.
"I don't think we would have as good a football team if I had to choose which one was going to play and the other was going to go to defense," Crews said. "I think they realize that. It's about us winning. It's not about them carrying the ball."
Tompkins and Cole have been sharing the ball since they were 6 and 7 years old. The two led Brookwood to the GFL county championship game with Tompkins at fullback and Cole at tailback. Tompkins, who is a year older, moved up to the 8-year-old team the following year. The two didn't share the backfield again until last season.
"We were both running backs when we were 6 and 7 years old," Tompkins said. "It's kind of nice to be able to do it again one more time in high school."
The only time Tompkins and Cole have fought over the ball was when they played youth baseball together. Tompkins played shortstop and Cole was at third, causing problems when the ball was hit between the two.
"They would hit the ball between us and we fight to get the ball," Cole said.
Crews could sense he had two standout running backs waiting in the wings by the time the duo reached ninth grade. Tompkins would carry the ball four times and would have four touchdowns against freshman competition. Cole would dart past defenders on his way to long runs.
Not much has changed on the varsity level.
Tompkins, who has committed to Michigan State, has a knack for hitting the hole hard or breaking a long run around the edge.
"His speed, man. When he hits that corner, he's gone," Cole said. "He's strong too, I've seen him run over people."
Cole is just as dangerous with his speed and ability to change direction on the drop of a dime.
"He makes defenders look stupid all the time," Tompkins said.
Tompkins rushed for 1,890 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, while Cole had 1,146 yards and 18 TDs. The pair also split time at the same defensive back position as well, giving the Broncos a game-changer on both sides of the ball.
"We always give each other tips," Tompkins said. "When there's a timeout, we are always there for each other."
If one of them is playing well or breaks a long run, the other one is on the sideline cheering him on. There's never any animosity if one of them has a bulk of the success. It's even gotten to the point, that if one is having a good night running the ball, then the other will voluntarily carry the ball less.
"When I score, he's the first one out there and when he scores I'm the first one out there," Cole said. "If we didn't know each other, there might have been some problems. But I've known him since I was 6 and I've got his back on whatever."
That kind of chemistry is what helped Brookwood to the state title last year. The Broncos are only guaranteed five more games this season, but Tompkins and Cole don't want their last season together to end anytime soon.
"It makes this season special, knowing this is the last time we'll be together," Cole said.