NEWPORT — When Nokomis Regional High School football coach Jake Rogers thinks of senior cousins Chance and Brock Graves, he doesn’t think of the highlight reel plays they’ve often made. This week, Rogers is thinking of two plays they made late in the Warriors’ 13-0 regional semifinal win at Maine Central Institute last Friday night.

The plays came on the same late-game drive, in which the Huskies were trying to find the end zone and give themselves a chance to win. The first came as Chance Graves defended a deep pass, described by Rogers as a 50-50 ball. Chance tipped the pass away, incomplete, but tipping is too subtle a way to describe how he deflected the pass.

“Instead of trying to go for the pick, he made sure he tipped it and no one on earth could catch it other than the people over in the grandstand,” Rogers said. “He swatted that thing like a volleyball player. He made sure no one was going to catch it… It’s plays like that, those are the plays I get excited about, because they’re smart. They’re unselfish plays. It’s being a smart football player.”

Later on that drive, with the Huskies facing third down and long, it was Brock’s turn. With less than a minute to play and MCI out of timeouts, Brock played back, letting the receiver make the catch. Brock broke down perfectly, Rogers said, set his feet, and made the open field tackle, keeping the receiver in bounds and the clock running.

“Smart. He didn’t try to go for a pick. I was so excited about that play. It was a like a 15-yard gain and I was like ‘That’s a smart play!'” Rogers said. “It’s not going to be on a highlight reel anywhere, but if you have a coaches reel, it’s on a coaches reel.”

No matter what side of the ball they’re playing on, Brock and Chance Graves have made a series of smart plays for the Warriors this season. The cousins born a week apart (Brock is slightly older), Graves and Graves have been keys at wide receiver and cornerback. Their play has helped Nokomis (6-4) reach Saturday’s Big 11 Conference championship game, where the Warriors will face Hermon (9-1) at Hampden Academy for the right to play in the Class C state championship game.

Brock and Chance Graves aren’t brothers, but they might as well be. They grew up playing sports together. In youth football, the cousins would alternate between quarterback and receiver. Now, both are receivers at Nokomis, catching passes from quarterback Andrew Haining. Chance has 22 catches for 450 yards and seven touchdowns, while Brock has 16 catches for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamanss Chance Graves listens and watches during a practice drill Tuesday in Newport.

“We’ve been playing together, most of us, for four years now. We’ve got so much chemistry it’s easy for us to play together,” Chance said of their roles in the Warriors offense. “This year, we’re a lot more involved, but it depends on the game. If we’ve got a matchup, we’re going to expose it. If we don’t have the matchup, then we’re going to run it down their throat.”

Added Brock: “I know in middle school we were always looking forward to our junior and senior years. Last year, we had the best record the school’s ever had, and this year, hopefully, we’re going to states.”

Defensively, the cousins start at corner. Chance has 31 tackles and an interception, while Brock has 24 tackles and a pick.

“They’ve been outstanding this year, the two of them. Setting the edge, defending deep balls. It just makes the defense a lot easier to execute when you’ve got two corners out there you can trust. I really trust both those guys,” Rogers said.

Chance and Brock Graves are among each other’s biggest fans.

“A nightmare,” Chance said of defending Brock. “He’s 6-foot-2 and 170. You’ve got the watch out. He’s going to catch it over you. He’s going to run by you.”

Nokomis’ Chance Graves (17) celebrates his touchdown against Medomak with teammates during a C North quarterfinal game on Oct. 27.

Brock was equally giving in his praise of Chance.

“He’s a track star. He’ll run right by you. (Chance placed fifth in the 100 meters in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship meet last spring). He’s athletic. Even though he doesn’t play basketball anymore, he should. He can jump. You’ve got to think about everything,” Brock said.

Rogers describes Brock Graves as reserved and quiet, while Chance will chat enough for both of them. Most of all, the coach describes the cousins as players who have been big contributors to Nokomis’ resurgence over the last two seasons.

“They were dedicated in the offseason. They get the concepts we’re trying to run. They help the younger guys out trying to understand it,” Rogers said. “They’re methodical in their route running. Everything you want in a skill kid, they do everything the right way.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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