Carlos Davis leaned back on a portable bench inside the Excelsior Springs High School track, a pose symbolic of his satisfaction after he launched a discus throw that put him in line to win the Missouri Class 4, Sectional 4 championship.
With the heat of a May afternoon sun beating down on him, Davis wiped the sweat from his face, smiled and turned toward his stiffest competition.
Twin brother Khalil.
With one throw remaining, Khalil picked up his discus and walked toward the ring.
“You just lost the meet, man,” Khalil said. “I’m sorry. That’s not going to be good enough.”
True to his word, Khalil hurled his final throw 196 feet, 8 inches, besting Carlos by 2 feet.
The Blue Springs duo — better known as the twin beasts on the football team’s defensive line — competed again one week later at the Missouri Class 4 state championship meet.
In the finals, Carlos registered a toss of 212 feet, 5 inches — the longest high school toss in the nation all season.
Khalil stayed silent this time.
“He didn’t have nothing to say about that one,” Carlos said. “When I win, that’s when he’s quiet.”
The roots of a sibling rivalry have sprouted beyond the discus course. They’re present on the football field, in the weight room and even at the kitchen table, where their parents say they fight over who can devour more chicken wings.
Carlos and Khalil, who have committed to play football at Nebraska next season, are quick to note the rivalry is a friendly one. It’s even a beneficial one.
Because when they’re paired together — as they are for two-time defending state champion Blue Springs — it produces a menacing combination.
“They’re always trying to one-up each other — whether it’s a squat, a bench press, a tackling drill, whatever. That’s what continues to elevate these guys,” Blue Springs football coach Kelly Donohoe said. “But there’s a tremendous twin bond with those guys.
“You don’t want to be on the other side of that.”
That bond developed early. Well, really early.
Carlos and Khalil slept in side-by-side cradles when they were babies. Except their parents, Tracy and Carl, could rarely get them both to sleep.
“Even as babies, if one of them was asleep, the other one would fidget and rock his own cradle to wake the other one up,” Tracy said. “They didn’t like being awake without the other one awake, too.”
Tracy and Carl also have two daughters, both of whom are older than the twins. They wanted to raise a boy, too. Carl was a huge sports fan, and he hoped his son would play football.
They contacted a foster care agency in Kansas City and shared their interest in adopting a boy. The agency returned the call, but there was a catch.
There were two boys.
A family of six was too large for the Davis’ income, but Tracy asked to meet the 9-month-old twins before they declined.
“I could see their bond the moment I saw them,” Tracy said. “I just fell in love with them. We had to have them both.”
The Davis twins are ranked among the best five or six high school football seniors in Missouri. They spurned offers from Kansas State, Missouri, Kansas and a host of other Division I schools when they chose to attend Nebraska and follow in the footsteps of their uncle, Lorenzo Hicks.
They combined for 42 tackles for loss last season while playing on the interior of the Wildcats’ defense.
In nine years of football, they have won two high school state championships, completed an undefeated middle-school season and earned numerous youth-league trophies.
Their first practices took place in a narrow hallway inside their home.
Carlos and Khalil competed in one-on-one tackle football in the small pathway. The object of the game was to run over the opponent until reaching the end zone.
“That never ended well,” Carlos said. “It always ended in something breaking or somebody getting mad.”
Added Khalil, “Whatever we played, we played to win. Even if it was running upstairs, I would trip him just to beat him to the top.”
They joined forces in youth football — but not because of their desire for the game. Carl signed them up for sports after noticing their athleticism when they played games around the house.
“They would do things like race to the car, and it seemed like to me they were really fast and athletic at a young age,” Carl said. “But I didn’t know for sure. Then their preschool teacher came up to me and said they were winning all the games and races against everyone else in school.”
The Davis twins are two of the strongest players on the Blue Springs football team. They dominate many of the weight-room competitions, Donohoe said.
But they began their football careers in the offensive backfield. Khalil was the running back. Carlos was the fullback.
They led Brittany Hill Middle School to an undefeated season. And they caught the eye of the high school coach in the process.
“The explosiveness was already there. They were wrecking machines,” Donohoe said. “We knew we had two really good ones.”
A summer in the weight room caused them each to gain nearly 40 pounds, though, and they made the switch to defense — save the occasional offensive snap. Carlos scored a touchdown against Lee’s Summit West while playing fullback last season.
They may even see a few carries this season. Blue Springs has inserted an offensive package with the Davis twins in the backfield.
The players call it the Rhino package.
Carlos and Khalil are 265 and 260 pounds, respectively, and very little of that weight is fat. The house, they say, literally shakes when they run inside of it.
They are intimidating presences on the Blue Springs defensive line, offering a blend of size and athleticism rarely seen at the high school level. Each of them can do a backflip without a running start — a stunt they learned in preschool that has since broken three beds in their home.
They play with an aggressive mean streak on the field, but as fearsome as they are in football pads, they are every bit the opposite without them.
“When people see us in the hallways, they say, ‘Look at those softies over there,’ ” Khalil said. “The football field, that’s where we can be mean.”
They’re pranksters, too.
Vaseline on the locker combinations. Shaving cream in the cleats. And once — laxatives in the water.
They were busted for switching spots in elementary school, but claim to have gotten away with the trick just last year.
“They’re goofy guys. They’re just happy-go-lucky kids,” Donohoe said. “Boy, you get them on the football field, though, and that just changes. I think you hear that a lot about the great ones.”
After the graduation of Elijah Lee, a hybrid linebacker and defensive end who’s now at Kansas State, Carlos and Khalil say they have filled the leadership void for the defense. That means no more practical jokes.
Blue Springs is seeking a third straight Missouri Class 6 state championship, and the Davis twins are a big reason why the Wildcats open the season as the top-ranked team in the state.
Fittingly, they are planted side by side on the defensive line, interior linemen who form a wall in the middle of the defense.
“I know on the football field, he has my back. He knows I have his back,” Carlos said. “We just block everything else out, and it’s us two against the world.”
Until track season, of course.
In which case, the rivalry returns.
Khalil says they hope to compete for the Nebraska track and field team, if time will allow it, but he’s particularly looking forward to one more high school season first.
He has payback on his mind.
“He got me last year. I let him have his time to shine,” Khalil said. “Next year, I’ll get him. It’s my turn.”