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All in the (Panther) family

Without the help of a team roster, it’s understandable if you don’t think to make a connection between No. 52 and No. 14 for the South Medford football team.

They’re built different, play different and, generally, act as different as can be from an outsider’s perspective.

There’s Cole, a 5-foot-10, 215-pound senior who may as well have “brace yourself” taped to his helmet due to his physical demeanor.

And then there’s Austin, a 5-8, 150-pound junior you can barely get framed in a photo due to his fleet-footed, acrobatic ways.

While they may operate in different fashions, this “Thunder and Lightning” duo does have at least one thing in common: They share the Boster family name.

“We’ll be playing and kids don’t know,” says Cole of the relationship. “Like I’ll make a joke, ‘Oh, that’s my brother,’ and they’re like, ‘Yeah right.’ People don’t realize we’re related, it’s kind of funny.”

Another thing the Boster brothers share is the ability to provide a spark for the Panthers (5-3), who host North Medford (3-5) in the 33rd annual Black and Blue Game Friday night at Spiegelberg Stadium. Kickoff is at 7.

Cole stands as one of the leading tacklers at linebacker on a South Medford defense that leads the Southwest Conference in allowing only 317 yards and 20 points per game. Austin is also a part of that defense, helping anchor a secondary that has come up with nine interceptions.

Austin excels on the offensive end, where his older brother helps make it happen in the trenches as a lineman. At receiver, Austin ranks third in the SWC with 577 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 30 receptions.

Still not finished, both are steady forces on special teams, with Austin gaining a little more glory thanks to two punt return TDs.

“Obviously they’ve had a huge impact,” says South Medford head coach Bill Singler.

“Cole has really emerged as a fine football player and you can tell he just loves the game and loves being at practice and being around the guys,” adds the coach. “He brings that physicality for us; he’s one of those kids that just plays with a physical demeanor in everything he does.”

“Austin brings kind of the pizzazz to the Boster brothers. Austin is as fast as anybody in the state with a football and has shown up huge for us in all three phases. He’s one of the most dynamic football players we’ve had in our program since I’ve been here.”

Along with their older brother Ty, who graduated last school year, the Bosters have been a fixture in South Medford athletics ever since moving to the area from California. With their parents, Ted and Amanda, working and coaching at South Medford High throughout their childhood, the boys could seemingly always be found as ball boys in football and basketball.

“Being a part of South growing up, helping out with the basketball teams and football teams, you really see what it means and it kind of teaches you what it’s supposed to mean,” says the 18-year-old Cole. “Now that it’s my time, it means a lot trying to do that for the next generation and leave a good mark.”

For Austin, it’s also a chance to live out those childhood fantasies of watching favorite stars like Matt Retzlaff and company and vowing to be a Panther standout like them someday.

“When I was little you always watched the stars of this team and wanted to do what they were able to do once you got into high school,” says the 16-year-old three-sport star, whom Singler compares favorably to ex-South players like Retzlaff and Thom Whiteaker.

“Just to be able to do some things out there for South, it’s an amazing feeling,” says Austin. “Playing Panther football is something you dream about as a kid, coming to the games Friday nights and seeing all the lights and the fans ... there’s no better feeling than playing in Spiegelberg Stadium on Friday nights.”

With a year’s difference between the two, it wasn’t until Cole was in sixth grade and Austin was in fifth that they were on the same team in AAU boys basketball.

That’s not to say his older brother didn’t have a much earlier impact on Austin.

“Cole’s a special player, he has been since Day 1,” says Austin, with a nod to their Pop Warner football days of scrapping on the front lawn. “ I just remember he would just lay me out every single time, to the point where I did not want to go out on the lawn and play football with him anymore.”

That ability has stayed with Cole, who saw varsity action as a sophomore but really came into his own last year when he had to take over at linebacker for an injured Martin Laupola on South Medford’s state runner-up squad.

“Ever since then he’s been the guy that leads this defense,” says Austin. “He’s a special guy, he’s tough, he works hard and he’s just a really good person to look up to. He’s just a blessing to have on this team and a blessing to have as a brother, just to look up to and go through life with.”

The “big bruiser,” as Austin calls him, is pretty partial to his younger brother as well.

“Austin’s just a baller,” says Cole. “... He’s definitely stepped up a lot. Last year coming in as a sophomore he really turned some heads on what he could do. I just think a big part of it is he plays hard and he always plays every down like it’s the last down that he’s got.”

“He really goes after it and goes after the ball,” adds the senior, “I don’t know many guys that can cover him. He’s just an animal.”

Both also compete together on the South Medford track team, with Cole finishing eighth at the Class 6A state meet in the discus with a heave of 142 feet, 9 inches and Austin placing fourth at state in the 400 meters with a time of 48.71 seconds.

Austin had earlier won the SWC championships in the 200 (22.21) and 400 (48.61) and helped anchor the 4x400 relay squad (that included brother Ty) to a league title. That same relay broke school, meet and track records in the 69th Grants Pass Rotary Track and Field Invitational earlier in the season with a blistering time of 3:22.30, and finished fifth at state.

“To be able to set that record with Ty and also be able to play football with Cole, it’s very special and something that will always stick with me and I’ll never forget,” says Austin of his high school rarity. “It’s just been a lot of special moments being able to play with my brother. I’ve talked to other people about it and they just say, ‘I wish I could’ve done that with my brother,’ and stuff like that.”

Cole says there’s a special level of pride that comes from being able to share in the moment when a family member shines.

“I get excited,” Cole admits. “I always try to be the first one down there whenever Austin scores, and it’s pretty hard because he’s way faster than I am.”

“We’re brothers but we kind of play totally different spots and we’re kind of in two separate categories,” he adds, “but it’s really awesome when I see him succeed and just go ball out. It’s just really cool to know, yeah, that’s my brother, we live under the same roof.”

That said, they are brothers, and with that comes a degree of give and take.

“Cole’s one of those guys that’s always right,” Austin laughs. “I’ll admit, we argue a lot and it’s always about something stupid and something you shouldn’t be arguing about. He’s just so stubborn, but he’s my brother and I love him to death. He’s a special person in my life and I’m happy to be able to call him my brother.”

Adds Cole: “Austin’s like any other little brother. You love him all the time, and sometimes you don’t love him as much. Other than that, he’s a cool kid to have as your brother and it’s a proud moment to say, yeah, my little brother is Austin Boster.”

“It’s just kind of cool knowing that sometimes you can look up to him as well sometimes,” adds Cole. “I wish I could be that fast or I wish I could make someone miss like he does.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSouth Medford senior Cole Boster, left, and junior brother Austin Boster at Spiegelberg Stadium Thursday.