Michael Julian and C.J. Frazier want you to know they're best friends. Even when they act like enemies. And even if some people say they aren't really supposed to like each other.
They're competitors. Quarterbacks for rival schools -- Frazier at Bluffton High School; Julian at Hilton Head High.
They realize they contend for the same goals. And they know they will be on opposite sidelines when their respective teams meet in Friday night's Bridge Bowl at Bobcat Stadium.
But that's a distant care at a photo shoot Wednesday afternoon.
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Julian is the first to arrive, decked out in his white Seahawks uniform. Frazier, traveling straight from football practice, shows up 20 minutes later. They shake hands, and Julian helps out by pulling Frazier's black Bobcats jersey over his shoulder pads.
Not everything, however, is quite so friendly. With the game just three days away, it doesn't take long for the trash talking to begin.
As they walk down to a dock on Pinckney Island, Frazier turns to Julian.
"So we watched film of you today," he says.
"And?" Julian asks.
"Yeah, what happened to you, man?" Frazier jokes. "Didn't you used to be able to pass?"
Julian brushes it off with a smile. But the two aren't done yet.
Throughout the shoot, they trade jabs back and forth like a couple of prize fighters. Julian and Frazier attempt to show their intimidating looks to the camera, but neither can hold a straight face for more than a few seconds.
"I look so much buffer than you," Frazier says, pointing at Julian's arms.
"Because you're fat," Julian replies. "That ain't muscle.
"But maybe I should flex."
BEGINNING OF A FRIENDSHIP
Michael Julian grew up playing against C.J. Frazier. They met in football, basketball and occasionally baseball.
Now sophomores in high school, each already has a year of varsity experience in basketball. And they are earning the respect of teammates in their first year of varsity football.
But when together, they often reminisce about games they used to play.
"I remember one time in a football game, I rolled out of the pocket to run the ball, and he hit me and everything just went blurry," Frazier recalls. "I went to get the next play from my dad -- he was calling plays -- and I couldn't see. He thought it was because my visor was messed up, but it was because Michael knocked me out."
Julian laughs about it now, but plays like that were enough to ignite a rivalry between two competitive athletes at a young age.
"I really didn't like him," Frazier says as Julian laughs. "We were both the best players on our teams. It's what we grew up knowing. We weren't supposed to like each other."
In one game, though, enmity turned to respect.
The two met in the middle school basketball playoffs. Julian starred in the game -- both agree -- but Frazier sunk a game-winning shot to give McCracken Middle School the final word.
As a result of the game, Julian and Frazier forged a friendship shortly thereafter, one that actually began online.
They have remained close in the three years since. Julian often spends weekends at Frazier's house and vice versa. The two talk girls, football and the pressure of being the center of attention under the lights on Friday nights.
"It makes it easier on us because that's another quarterback in the same position you are," Julian said. "It takes the pressure off."
RIVALS (AGAIN) FOR A DAY
A growing friendship will be tested when a childhood rivalry is renewed Friday night.
Julian's Seahawks (4-5) visit Frazier's Bobcats (8-1) in a Region 7-AAA matchup. The two teams met earlier this season, but Frazier was forced to sit out the first four weeks of the season with a broken collarbone. Julian's first career varsity start was underwhelming in a 39-0 Bluffton win.
But this meeting will have a little more to it -- and not just because it actually counts toward the region standings
It will be the first time Frazier and Julian have met on the football field since the seventh grade -- in essence, the first meeting since they became friends.
"It doesn't feel any different playing against him as it would anybody else," Frazier said. "I want him to have his best game ever ... but still lose."
Frazier and Julian admitted, though, those feelings may change once they see each other in opposite uniforms on the field.
In order for his team to win, Julian realizes, the Seahawks defense must limit Frazier's success.
"Go hurt him," Julian said with a laugh. "No, don't hurt him. Just scare him. Make him mess up. Sack him. Don't let him do anything good."
After the game, the friendship will resume. The two already have plans to hang out Friday night, as well as the rest of the weekend.
And you can bet the Bridge Bowl will be a topic of conversation.
"Oh, if we win, I'll taunt him," Julian said. "I'll bring it to him. I'll make him cry."