When you have identical triplets on your team, it’s a good thing football players wear numbers.
Without numbers, Phillipsburg’s Boothman triplets pose a challenge for Stateliner coach Frank Duffy.
“I can’t tell them apart,” said the Stateliner head coach with a sheepish smile during a break in this week’s preparation for the 110th Phillipsburg Thanksgiving Day clash with archrival Easton at Lafayette’s Fisher Stadium (10:30 a.m.). “I should be able to by now. I am working on it.”
Duffy’s confusion is quite understandable. Juniors Jaleel, Jalen, and Jevon Boothman all have the same big, warm smiles; pleasant, friendly manner; and desire to excel on the football field.
Jaleel goes 6-foot-3, 220 pounds and plays tackle and middle linebacker. Jalen is 6-3, 218, and plays offensive line and defensive. Jevon, at 6-2, 195, plays defensive back and wide receiver.
“When they came to our program I remember how excited I was,” Duffy said. “They have big frames and we’re happy to get those kinds of bodies into our program. I could not be happier with their work ethic. They are very coachable, very respectful kids and they have really worked hard to improve themselves.”
And the Boothmans, who moved to the city of Phillipsburg from Emmaus and are originally from Queens, are excited to be where they are and playing football for the Stateliners.
“It’s crazy here,” Jalen said. “The first time I played varsity and came out of the locker room and saw thousands of people here watching us in our first home game, I couldn’t believe my eyes. That’s not how it was in Emmaus or Queens.”
The Boothmans fit right in in football-mad Phillipsburg. They’ve played other sports, but football is their focus.
Or perhaps obsession.
“Our mother, Tamara, says we love football more than we do her,” Jalen said.
Jaleel said, “We are always talking football, all the time.”
And that they get to be on the field with each other makes it even better.
“It’s a humbling experience to play with the same guys I get to go home with every night,” Jaleel said. “It’s a lot of fun. I can’t imagine playing football without my brothers.”
All three Boothmans have seen varsity time this fall and Duffy has been pleased with what he has seen so far.
“Their mentality is to keep getting better all the time,” Duffy said. “I am really excited for next year with them.”
However, before next year there is one small matter to take care of – Easton.
“This game is for the seniors,” Jaleel said. “This is the last time many of them will step on the football field and play football ever again. This is their last shot and we want to send them out with a win. This is for the seniors’ legacy.”
Jevon added it can help the juniors as well.
“We’re using the Easton game to make a statement for 2017,” he said. “We didn’t get to the state championship this year, and we were humbled by that. But we have to put that aside and go into the Easton game with a clear mind.”
That can be a little hard to have at Fisher Stadium Thanksgiving morning amid the spectacle of the greatest high school rivalry in the nation.
“It doesn’t really hit you until you come back on the field after leaving for warmups,” Jalen said. “I’ve never seen so many people. It’s so exciting – it’s hard to put into words.”
“It’s like you’re in a dream.” Jaleel said.
And the Boothmans will do their best Thursday to make Phillipsburg’s season end in a dream with a win over Easton.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.