High school sports: Bald Eagle Area’s Greene twins delivered energy in four sports

rgery@centredaily.comMay 22, 2014 

The garage wall acts as a timeline of the Greene twins’ athletic careers.

Forty-six photos, spanning 11 years, capture Bryce and Bryan, from Little League baseball and Pee Wee football back in Bolivar, N.Y., to their senior year at Bald Eagle Area High School.

The photos are organized by year and separated by sport — football on the left, basketball in the middle, baseball on the right. The twins pose together in some, with younger brother Garret in others and in team pictures that mark their growth from 2004-14.

Their father, John Greene, started building the display on a camouflage board three years ago, digging old photos out of boxes and adding onto it throughout high school. The photos freeze memorable moments from their youth and document their careers at BEA, where they’ve starred in football, basketball and baseball over the last three years.

There’s still a fourth sport to be added — the twins ran track and field this year, making for a busy spring learning a new sport in addition to playing baseball. And in the days before the second-seeded BEA baseball team’s District 6 Class AA tournament semifinal home game against third-seeded Bellwood-Antis at 4 p.m. Thursday and the PIAA track and field meet at Shippensburg starting Friday, it’s starting to hit the proud father that the BEA section of the timeline will soon be complete.

“I’m out here quite a bit,” said John, sitting in the garage with country music humming in the background. “You know how you just get in a mood and you want to look back at everything, then you look at them when they were little, and you think, ‘Man, where’d the time go?’”

The 9-year-old kids on the Bolivar Little League team at the top right corner of the wall developed into star athletes at BEA. Bryce and Bryan started three years on the basketball and baseball teams, and they were standout receivers and cornerbacks in football — Bryce in his lone year as a senior and Bryan as a junior and senior.

In their first year of track, in which they competed in just four meets, Bryce and Bryan were part of the District 6 Class AA champion 1,600-meter relay team with Nathan Styles and baseball teammate Dakota Bartley. Bryce also won the 200-meter dash in his third time running the event to earn a berth to states.

They’ve enjoyed the ride captured on the garage wall of their Milesburg home on Water Street. They cherish the friendships and bonds they’ve formed with their teammates, coaches and BEA supporters. But none has been stronger than the one they share as twins, the driving force behind their success.

“I guess we are best friends since we’ve been together since we were alive,” Bryan said. “We have each other’s backs.”

***

The Greenes strengthened their connection through countless backyard battles over the years.

When they moved to Milesburg a decade ago, John’s first project was cutting down the towering black walnut tree in the backyard. They needed an open space for tackle football, their father serving as the quarterback and for wiffle ball, a line of trees acting as their Green Monster. A basketball hoop went up in the driveway, where John would often have to officiate as tempers flared.

Not much has changed.

“These two cannot go out here and play a game and have fun,” John said.

“We fight,” Bryan said. “We’re good at fighting.”

They’ve been even better working together as teammates at BEA.

In football, the speedy twins combined to score all six Eagles’ touchdowns in a dominant 45-6 win over Ligonier Valley at Alumni Stadium last November. Each score set off their “triple threat” touchdown celebration with their 12-year-old brother Garret, who was the team’s ball boy, all three jumping in the air and bumping shoulders on the sideline.

In basketball, they keyed the Eagles’ full-court press defense and fueled the offense, always aware of each other on the court, something BEA coach Bill Butterworth marveled at from the bench.

“They could read each other’s minds,” Butterworth said.

Butterworth noticed subtle differences in the twins too, saying Bryce is a little more outgoing than Bryan. They’ve also tried to differentiate from each other on the court and in the field, wearing different color arm sleeves and wristbands and sneakers or spikes.

“We don’t like matching each other,” said Bryce, who sports facial hair on his chin while Bryan is clean-shaven.

For the most part, though, they admit they have similar personalities.

When debating who’s the better athlete, they love provoking each other with their shared sarcastic sense of humor – even if they know they’re evenly matched.

During the baseball season, Bryan belted a home run at Philipsburg-Osceola — the first for either brother this year. Bryce matched him by drilling a homer the next game, against Williamsport, at Bald Eagle.

“Of course when we got home,” Bryce said, “he always says that he has more power than me.”

For the longest time, John said, Bryan was faster. Now, Bryce has the edge.

“He just can’t keep up anymore with me, that’s all,” Bryce said.

After high school, the brothers will go their separate ways, with Bryce planning to play baseball at Lock Haven and Bryan deciding between playing baseball and football at Juniata or just football at Lycoming.

“I know I won’t have to fix anymore dry wall upstairs,” John said, referring to the damage caused by their scuffles.

***

Jack and Sonia Myers are Bald Eagle Area’s “superfans.”

Sonia, 79, worked at the school for more than 40 years, and they’ve been following Eagles’ sports for just as long. They go to every BEA sporting event they can, even traveling to road games.

Sonia said they’ve gotten close with this entire senior class of athletes. This year, they got to know the Greene twins.

“These boys are so special,” Sonia said. “I guess I really started noticing in football this year when they would score, which was often the two of them, they would do high fives and then they would go and sit on the bench beside each other for just a minute and then they’d go off again. It was just such a closeness that you sensed between the two of them.”

Sonia’s goal was to tell the twins apart, which Bryce made easier when he promised not to shave. Sonia and Jack didn’t miss a basketball game and are now following the baseball team as it continues through the postseason.

“We’ve just enjoyed them so much and they’ve given us so many hours of joy,” Sonia said of this group of BEA seniors. “We’re gonna miss ‘em. All those kids.”

No matter the season, it’s been exciting for BEA fans to watch the Greenes compete.

“They brought a special time to Bald Eagle,” Butterworth said. “And they’ve been blessed because that whole class is very athletic.”

The Eagles won back-to-back Mountain League titles in basketball. They won a league title in baseball. They’ve been to the district playoffs every year in every sport and went to the state playoffs in basketball consecutive years.

With the Greenes leading the way on some talented teams, it’s been a memorable run at BEA.

“We’ve been together pretty much the whole way up through,” basketball and baseball teammate Brandon Gettig said. “So it’s been fun getting close with them and just kind of developing with them. They’re probably some of the best athletes that have ever come through here, so it’s been cool to be able to play with them.”

***

The Greenes laid the foundation for their four-sport year in the fall, when Bryce finally decided to join Bryan on the varsity football team after taking a two-year break to concentrate on basketball.

So what pulled him back in?

“Probably seeing me,” Bryan said with a grin.

“Probably coach (Jack) Tobias,” Bryce said, laughing at his brother’s quip. “He was always ragging on me, saying how much he could use me.”

It was during football season that they started to consider the possibility of running track in the spring.

BEA track coach Jeff Jodon had tried to get them to come out since seventh grade, but they never gave it much thought. They always had baseball in the spring. Their father, who played four sports in high school, wanted to see if it would be possible for them to compete in both sports after basketball season.

They worked it out with their coaches and made the trip to Rapid Transit for track spikes, leaving with an orange pair for Bryce and a bright green pair for Bryan.

They started with the basics, getting familiar with the starting blocks and working on handoffs for relays.

“They have athletic talent,” Jodon said after the Mountain League Championships. “They’re tremendous football players, basketball players and baseball players. We just got to get them experience here on the track.”

That meant practicing both sports all spring even though they only made it to four track meets.

“It’s definitely harder than it looks,” Bryce said of competing in track and field.

The Greenes’ limited experience coupled with their natural athletic ability proved to be enough to earn their first district title in any sport at Altoona’s Mansion Park, with Bryan and Bryce contributing to the 1,600 relay team’s win and Bryce surprisingly taking the 200.

But baseball remained their first priority.

Bryce started at shortstop and batted leadoff, and Bryan played catcher and hit second. They’re tied for the team-high with 10 stolen bases and rank first and second on the team in runs scored.

“They’re definitely a huge part of our team,” Eagles coach Jim Gardner said. “They can make a lot of things happen with their hustle, their speed and getting on base. It puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”

They’re hoping to extend the baseball season with a win Thursday before driving down to Shippensburg that night for the PIAA meet.

***

The years in Milesburg flew by.

There was always a game to be played, somewhere to be. Countless miles were logged traveling around the state. Dinners ran late this spring as they juggled baseball and track.

But it’s all been well worth it for the Greenes.

“It’s been great,” Bryce said of their varsity careers. “Every year since we played, we made districts in every sport. You can’t beat that.”

And they can’t beat the relationships they formed along the way.

It’s all in the timeline — the twin brothers side by side, the teammates who were there every step of the way, the BEA “superfans” smiling with them after a basketball game. Everything except photos from their first and only track season that will end this weekend at Shippensburg.

“I haven’t got the track ones yet,” John said. “I can’t wait to get those up.”

In the years to come, when the twins return home, they’ll look at everything on the garage wall, reminisce and wonder where all the time went.

But right now, they’re still enjoying the ride.

Follow Ryne Gery on Twitter @rgery

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