There were happy faces bouncing all over the place last Saturday as brothers Andrew and Jay Nickell excitedly made their way off the football field at Lyons High School.
In their path stood two even happier faces, beaming with pride about Warren's wild come-from-behind triple overtime victory … and about clearly much, much more than that.
Jim and Mary Pat Nickell were just trying to soak it all in.
"I've never seen a bigger smile on either my mom's face or my dad's face," Jay Nickell said. "They are loving this."
What's not to love? Not only are the Nickell boys getting to play varsity football together for the first time, on a Blue Devils team that is already showing a ton of promise, they've also grown closer than ever, despite the fact that they are competing for time at the exact same position.
Andrew Nickell, a 6-foot-1 senior, is Warren's starting quarterback. Jay Nickell, a 6-foot-1 junior, is Andrew's back-up. They spent the entire summer battling for the top slot.
"There were days when one had a better day than the other, one would shine more," Warren coach Dave Mohapp said. "It was a good competition."
Of course, it wasn't exactly your garden-variety competition. Real feelings were involved. Blood was involved.
"Usually, when you're competing against someone, you just want to do better than that person and that's it," Andrew Nickell said. "With this, I wanted to do well, but I wanted the other person to do well, too, because the other person is my brother."
Andrew Nickell, who spent last season as the back-up to all-conference quarterback Adam Reuss and was the favorite to earn the starting spot for 2013, did do well in his debut.
He completed 23 of 30 passes for 273 yards and 2 touchdowns in the 42-35 triumph over Lyons. His 2-yard touchdown pass to DeOnteya Sims was the game-winner in the third overtime.
The resilient Blue Devils had been down 21-0 at the start of the fourth quarter.
"Being down like that was a little overwhelming," Andrew Nickell said. "But I was a team captain for the game and I felt like it was my job to stay positive and to take it one snap at a time and one drive at a time.
"Once we got our first score, you could feel the enthusiasm building."
Brother Jay can vouch for that. He didn't get in the game, but he sure was into the game from the sideline, cheering on his brother louder than anyone.
"Besides maybe my parents, I don't think anyone wants to see Andrew succeed more than me," said Jay Nickell, the starting quarterback for the sophomore team last season. "I mean, sure, I want to play and help the team.
"But I realized a while ago that Andrew was most likely going to be the starter and I accepted that. The way I see it is that he paid his dues last year and I'm paying mine this year. I mean, I've never had to keep up with anyone like I had to keep up with Andrew this summer. I'm getting better every day. I think it's really helping me that I get to learn under him."
It goes both ways, of course.
Andrew says he learns from Jay, too.
Just a year apart, the Nickell boys provide a built-in support system for each other when it comes to sports. They've grown up encouraging each other, advising each other, helping each other. And not just in football. The Nickell boys are also standout baseball players. Andrew is a catcher for the Blue Devils and especially enjoys catching for Jay, a pitcher.
"I wouldn't have it any other way. I love having my brother around and being so close," Andrew said. "A lot of people have brothers, but one might be way older or way bigger than the other and it just doesn't work.
"We're going through all the same things. We can talk to each other, we can help each other through things that we're struggling with. I really like that."
The only thing the Nickell brothers don't like about their situation is that it's going to end soon. Andrew is hoping to play football in college next year.
"I was just thinking the other day about how weird it's going to be not having him around," Jay said of Andrew. "I think we've got to make the most of every day we have, because it goes by quick."
• Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw