LONGMONT — The Skyline football team considers itself to be a brotherhood and a family.
Having produced Ethan and Will Drewes, a pair of hard-nosed middle linebackers that grew to become the driving force behind a Falcons defense that has played particularly well of late, the Drewes branch of the Skyline family tree is prickly in a way that the Skyline program has gladly welcomed into the fold.
After all, without Will and Ethan Drewes, this year's Falcons likely would not be able to say that they have won their program's first playoff game since 1999. Without the Drewes brothers, the Falcons most certainly would not have upset the No. 1-seeded Pine Creek Eagles in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
Even considering how special this season's run with their Skyline brotherhood has been, there's really nothing that can match the unique bond and passion for football the Drewes's share. For actual brothers Will and Ethan Drewes, playing football for the Falcons truly is a family affair.
Their bond is that of being teammates, as well as flesh and blood.
"It's awesome," Will Drewes said. "I've been playing next to him for the past three years. Playing with a gang of guys that you're close enough to call your brothers is a special thing. But being able to play with your actual brother is really special and it's been amazing to share the field with him through the run that we've been on.
"We get to go through practices and then go home and talk about plays and things that we need to be able to do to make the team better. It's been really special to share that relationship both on and off the field."
Will Drewes is a junior and Ethan Drewes is a senior. Growing up and over the years of playing football together since the fifth grade, Ethan has forced Will to be more physical and Will has continued to challenge Ethan as he has grown. Now they're both over six feet tall and weigh over 200 pounds, and as close as they've always been, they say they have each other's backs like no one else ever could. The Drewes brothers' relationship, specifically the intensity and energy it generates, has translated into success on the field for the Falcons defense.
In the playoffs for the second straight season, the ninth-seeded Falcons already have plenty of momentum after following a 32-23 win over No. 8 Pueblo West in the first round and a 21-20 upset of No. 1 Pine Creek last week. On Saturday, the Falcons (9-3) will face No. 5 Ponderosa (10-2) on the road at EchoPark Stadium in Parker with a chance to play in the Class 4A state title game for the first time since 1999 hanging in the balance. Facing a team that averages just over 30 points per game, the Falcons' defense will need to be outstanding if they want to reach the title game.
The Drewes brothers expect their unit to be just that.
"It really comes down to us knowing what we have to do," Ethan Drewes said. "We have to do our jobs on every play. Our mentality is just about putting them in the dirt right off the bat, getting stops and setting stuff up for our offense. We're focused on working together as a unit and since it's the postseason, everyone's intensity is ratcheted up a little bit extra. Our goal is to get to that state championship and win. Every one of us is ready to do whatever it takes to do that."
During the regular season, teams averaged 24.7 points per game against the Skyline defense. Stiffening up so far in the postseason, the Falcons have allowed an average of 21.5 points per game against two of the best teams in the state. Much of that success starts and ends with Ethan and Will playing side-by-side in the middle of everything.
Their roles are fairly interchangeable, and Will and Ethan both complement and set each other up nicely, but Ethan is more of the run-stopper. He leads the Falcons with 97 tackles and is averaging 8.1 per game. Will is the slightly better pass-rusher and leads the team with 7.5 tackles for loss, including a team-high four sacks. Since the playoffs began, they've been making big play after big play.
Against Pueblo West, Will and Ethan each had a pair of sacks and Will had an interception. Against Pine Creek, Will and Ethan combined for 18 tackles. In that same game, each of the brothers recovered a fumble, Will intercepted a pass that he tipped at the line in the third quarter and Ethan halted a potential game-tying drive with a tackle for loss in the fourth quarter.
Plenty of other Falcons defenders are also stepping it up in the playoffs.
Linebacker Kyle West, who is best known for leading all of 4A in receiving yards, had a team-high six tackles against Pueblo West and made seven more against Pine Creek. Sophomore Grayden Bridwell led the Falcons with 13 tackles against Pine Creek. The Falcons' defense, which has been bolstered in the postseason by the removal of restrictions on two-way players, has recovered three fumbles and intercepted two passes in two postseason games.
The Drewes brothers aren't the only Skyline defensive players who are having an outstanding postseason. But on nearly every play, they can be found right in the middle of the action.
"It's the postseason and we haven't played both ways all year long in order to play healthy," Falcons head coach Mike Silva said. "The dudes are out there now, and that's one reason why our defense has been better. When before our top guys would be in a rotation where they'd play maybe one or two series a half, we're not holding any of our guys back and letting them play until they need a break.
"That's been led by the Drewes brothers' energy for sure. They're a big reason why our defense has been so much better in the playoffs."