After playing football together for years in high school, Kingsburg High graduates Benton Bray and Stephen Reyes will play together again but this time on a college team and against each other.
Reyes, cornerback for the University of Redlands Bulldogs, and Bray, tight end for the Whittier College Poets, will go head to head Nov. 1 on the football field in Whittier.
Reyes, 22, and Bray, 21, who both grew up in Kingsburg, have not only been friends, but also teammates for as long as they both can remember.
“I’ve known Benton since we were 8 and 9 years old,” Reyes said. “We started playing football together when I was in the fourth grade and he was in the third grade. We’ve been playing together ever since.”
Starting their playing years in elementary school, Reyes and Bray finished up their football years playing together between 2007 and 2010 for Kingsburg High School.
“In high school, he was the starting tight end and I was a starting cornerback. It was fun playing with him and the guys. We all liked to have fun and win,” Reyes said.
Over the years, Reyes and Bray became best friends and consider themselves to have a bond equivalent to brothers.
“My brother Phil and I consider Benton to be our brother,” Reyes said.
“His father and my father went to high school together at Kingsburg High School and they themselves were friends. He is like family to me and I consider his parents to be almost like my second mom and dad,” Bray said.
After graduating From Kingsburg High School in 2010, Reyes attended the University of Redlands in Southern California. He is studying business.
Bray graduated in 2011 and atttended the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, where he played football and was part of the 2012 national championship team.
In 2013, after Bray’s 2013 football season with Mount Union, Bray decided to transfer to Whittier College in Southern California. He is studying business.
Bray says it is "pretty crazy" that he and Reyes ended up playing for different teams this season within the same conference because he originally planned on playing at the University of Redlands.
“After leaving Mount Union in December, I was accepted and planned on transferring to Redlands in January,” Bray said. “But after the school limited the amount of transfer student spots for the spring semester, I was asked to enroll for the fall semester which would have meant I would miss spring classes and spring football. So the pieces of the puzzle somewhat fell into place for me as Whittier College didn’t start classes untill February allowing me to have spring classes and football.”
When the two teams play against each other on Nov. 1, both friends will be on the same field not as teammates but opponents for the first time.
“I play tight end on offense and he plays cornerback on defense so we will definitely be going against each other numerous times throughout the game. I am more anxious than nervous. Kind of like a horse chomping at the bit,” Bray said.
“We will be friends outside the lines but once the game starts it's different. I’m sure he’s going to try to do everything he can to win and so will I,” Reyes said.
“It has been something that Stephen and I have been saying back and forth all summer in a joking way. I think it is going to be very different playing against Stephen. I am looking forward to it though because I know it will be fun,” Bray said.
“The way I feel about going against him is excited. I am hoping that we can have a lot of people from our hometown to come watch us. I know we are both looking forward to going head to head with each other,” Reyes said. “It’s going to be fun and weird playing against one of my best friends."
“I feel anxious to be going against him but also a lot of excitement. I also feel some sadness because it will be the last time that we will be competing against each other on the field,” Bray said.
Reyes said he and Bray both train hard and love to play the game of football.
“Growing up I played with the same kids from the fourth grade through high school and we all are good friends. It helped us win a Valley championship in 2009 and many other championships when we were in Pop Warner,” Reyes said. “We were just able to trust each other in the games and know that everyone had that one goal which was to win.”
Bray enjoys the consistency of football.
“It never changes,” said Bray, “Things could be stressful at school or at home but when I go out to practice, the game is the same. It is somewhat relaxing for me.”
This will be Reyes’s final season to play football in college.
"Last year at Redlands we won the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and we are working hard to do the same this year. It’s going to be tough because we play in a very good conference so that will make the season exciting,” said Reyes.
Both Reyes and Bray are very competitive, but when the game is over, the game is over.
“We might still joke about the game but it won’t affect our friendship at all,” Bray said.
“It won’t change our friendship because we both know how the game is played and what happens on the field stays on the field,” Reyes said.
After college Reyes and Bray would like to continue playing football.
“If I was to do so, I would like to play in Europe. I have a friend who plays over there and it would be cool to move to a different area and keep playing,” Reyes said.
“My plans with football are to play until I can’t play anymore," Bray said. "I’d like to try and make a push to play professionally in Europe after college."