DEFIANCE — For more than 100 years there has been a River Rivalry between the Napoleon and Defiance high school football teams. This year the game takes on a sibling rivalry.
In a season where anything can happen and everything is possible, this seems like the most improbable situation of all — two brothers playing against each other in the River Rivalry.
Payton and Masen Switzer are brothers, who live in Defiance, but will be on opposite sidelines Friday night at Buckenmeyer Stadium. It is a unique situation that nobody involved can remember ever happening.
“I think we have had cousins play against each other,” said Napoleon football coach Tory Strock. “I remember maybe step brothers. If it has happened in the past, family members playing against each other it is very rare. I am certain never in the Napoleon-Defiance game.”
“It is definitely unique,” said Defiance coach Kevin Kline.
Payton Switzer, a senior, is a starting receiver and defensive back for the Bulldogs, while Masen Switzer, a sophomore, has not played a varsity game this season, but has been a major contributor for the Wildcats’ 5-0 junior varsity team.
The opportunity for this to happen began last year when Masen open enrolled at Napoleon High School to be part of the swimming program.
As a freshman, he decided to play water polo as many swimmers do. Unfortunately, the sport was not to his liking and it was also moved to the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Enter the opportunity to play football.
“When he said he wanted to play football I thought, ‘Uh, oh,’” said Ben Switzer, the boys’ father. “But, I told him to do whatever he wanted to do. I was nervous for him.”
“I did water polo last year, but I switched to football,” said Masen, who played youth football in Defiance before transferring to Napoleon. “Water polo just didn’t click with me.”
The Switzers, who are planning to move to Napoleon after the school year, said having kids in two schools has been an adjustment. Masen’s grandfather drives him to school most days and his mother, Alesha, who works in Napoleon, drives him home.
“It’s not normal for him to be over there,” said Payton Switzer. “It has to be that way, and I like my brother enough so it’s not that big of a deal.”
The move has been beneficial for Masen, who was recently voted the sophomore class president at Napoleon.
“It has worked out great,” said Ben Switzer. “He has made a lot of friends. It has been a great experience.”
“This has been good for everyone,” said Strock. “We get a good kid like Masen. He has been an asset to the school and community.
“He hasn’t played varsity, but he comes to every practice, every day and is a key contributor on the undefeated junior varsity team,” added Strock. “Every day in practice he is on the scout team, both offense and defense. He has been a valuable contributor to the team.”
This week, however, has made things a little different for the Switzers, in their home and neighborhood.
“It got real (Monday) when they each brought home their scouting reports,” said Ben Switzer. “They were kind of asking each other questions. Payton asked his brother, ‘Are you really 170 pounds?’”
“Our Defiance friends rip us all the time,” said Alesha, who has yard signs for both boys and their respective football helmets in the yard. “It’s funny. They are always giving us a lot of crap.
“All my friends are like, ‘I can’t imagine what it’s like in your house this week,” Alesha added. “The boys are both pretty laid back so they haven’t said too much.”
“It’s really chill with each other,” said Masen. “It’s not like a lot of trash talking. We will see how it plays out and let the pads talk.
“After the game, depending on who loses and which team wins, and who did better, there might be some trash talking,” Masen added.
The banter goes all the way to the coaches.
One of Masen’s best friends is Carver Kline — the son of Defiance’s coach.
“I know Masen really well,” said coach Kline. “He is good friends with my youngest son. In fact, he stayed at his house just last week. I kidded with him to look around for anything he could find on Napoleon.”
“I have joked with (Masen) throughout the year,” said Strock. “I will say things like, ‘Defi doesn’t’ because they have the saying, ‘Defi does.” He gets it and chuckles.
“I also tease him to not let his brother know your login info for his Huddle account,” Strock continued. “He told me it’s under lock and key.”
Both players and coaches are hoping there will be a chance to get the brothers on the field during the game, but the chances are slim.
“I want to be able, when the opportunity arises, to get all my seniors in the game,” said Strock. “I would like to get Masen on the field at some point, not because of this but because he’s earned it.”
“I am hoping to have the chance to take the field with my brother,” said Payton. “Maybe at the end of the game, we might see each other.”
While the players and coaches want to see that happen, the parents are content with them being in the same stadium.
“I am super excited to see them play each other,” said Alesha. “Masen doesn’t play varsity so that helps with who to root for. Payton is a senior so we will root for Defiance varsity and Napoleon junior varsity.”
The couple said they are planning to each wear one team’s jersey and sit on the bleachers on each side of the stadium for a half.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see their mom show up in a jersey that’s half Defiance and half Napoleon,” said Kline.
“I just want to get a picture of them in their uniforms,” said Alesha.