Football teams often refer to themselves as a brotherhood or a family even though it quite frankly is a just group of strangers and non-relatives suiting up wearing the same colors. For one of the challengers for the Division V football crown, it is quite literally a family affair.
Tempe Prep Head Coach Thomas Brittain has been at the helm for the Knights for quite some time and has seen many players come through his program. Some of which are some of his own flesh and blood.
“I’ve been doing it a long time and I have 11 children so my family adopts the football program as part of their lives,” said Brittain. “I have five boys, three of them have already graduated and played for me and two sons left. One is a senior and one is a junior.”
The senior, Zach Brittain, is the Knights leading rusher who leading up to the state title game has run for over 800 yards and 13 total touchdowns, 10 on the ground and three receiving. But this family tree doesn’t stop at immediate family suiting up for the nights.
“My brother helps coach and his two sons are on the team,” Brittain mentioned. “One of them is our quarterback and also my Dad coaches the line.”
Brittain’s nephew and starting quarterback, Jesse Brittain, has a completion percentage of just under 60%, 12 touchdown passes to just four interceptions and also has three rushing touchdowns for the Knights run-heavy attack.
It is the Knights first ever appearance in the state championship game and for Brittain and his family, the Thanksgiving holiday will be a little more busy and intense than normal.
“Football can be very traumatic and difficult but for my family, it brings us closer together,” he stated.
There are four players and three coaches that sport the Brittain name for Tempe Prep but there are still plenty others on the team that are adopted members of the family. The Knights since dropping their opening game of the season, has rattled off 12 consecutive wins. The Brittain-duo has been a big part of the success on offense, but on defense, it has been all about the playmaking safety, Daniel Hiser who has ten interceptions and leads the team in tackles on the season.
“All 135 pounds of him, he is just a kid who loves football, his family loves football and he’s just an over-achiever,” said Brittain of Hiser. “But he is also a smart kid and he plays his best in the biggest moments.”
“It’s been an unbelievable road and we have gone trough a lot of adversity with a lot of players going down,” mentioned Hiser. “Our starting tailback went down on the second play of the first game of the season. But we have been battling and we have reached our goal of making it to the state championship and it feels great.”
That first game the Knights lost just so happens to be to the team that stands in their way of a state championship. The defending champion Yuma Catholic Shamrocks.
In that game back on August 29th, the Knights fell 56-27. Hiser knows how much the mistakes that were made from that game effected them and what they will need to do to contain the brilliant Shamrocks attack.
“We can’t turn the ball over. We turned the ball over four times in that game and it just killed us. With a great team like that, with a great offense and you give them the ball, they are going to put up points on you so we’ve just got to take care of the football, we’ve got to get things going fast and we have to slow down their powerhouse offense.”
Tempe Prep looks to dethrone Yuma Catholic on Saturday at 2pm from North Canyon High School.