They were good friends and classmates through the seventh grade.
Josh Becnel and Trent Harrington meet on the football field Friday night for the final time, and there’s one last sentiment — may the best team win.
Of course, there’s a difference of opinion about which team that will be. Harrington is an offensive lineman for fourth-seeded Parkview Baptist (8-3). Becnel is a defensive end and wide receiver for top-seeded University High (10-1).
Given their ties and what’s at stake — a berth in the Division II title game at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic — it’s hard to imagine a more significant and personal challenge. U-High, the defending Division II state champion, hosts PBS at 7 p.m. Friday.
Skill players generally grab the headlines, but U-High coach Chad Mahaffey and PBS coach Jay Mayet are quick to point out the significance of the players like Harrington and Becnel.
This will be the sixth time the teams have played over the last three years. PBS is 0-5, including a 29-21 loss earlier this year and a 46-32 loss in the Division II title game last December.
“When we played earlier this year, I really didn’t go up against him (Harrington), but I did last year and that was strange,” Becnel said. “Trent’s a very good lineman, he just gets after it on every play. He never stops going until the play is over.”
The 5-foot-7, 255-pound Harrington earned all-state honors as a junior and is the latest in the long line of linemen who have made major contributions for the Eagles even though he doesn’t fit the mold of a 6-4, 300-pound player colleges recruit.
“I’ve been in school here since I was in kindergarten, and the football players used to come visit our class then,” Harrington said. “I can’t tell you any of their names. I never knew their names. I knew in kindergarten I wanted to be one of them one day.”
The story for Becnel is a bit different. He is a Hurricane Katrina evacuee from New Orleans who came to Parkview as a second-grader. His older brother Tim played on a state championship team at PBS two years later. He moved to U-High in the eighth grade.
Like Harrington on offense, the 6-0, 180-pound Becnel is not the prototype defensive lineman.
“Josh is one of three or four guys we rotate in at defensive end and we’ve used him as a receiver, especially after a couple of guys went down with injuries,” Mahaffey said. “Obviously, he’s not the biggest guy, so he has to use his speed and knowledge of the game to make plays.
“On offense, he not one of the statistical leaders, but he has good hands and has made some solid catches for us.”
Both players said they like being part of senior classes that have provided leadership for their respective schools.
“Trent is not a guy who talks a lot, but he can be emotional,” Mayet said. “We always let the seniors talk, and he got very emotional. He talked about not really wanting to be all-state last year.
“What he wanted was for the team to win the title. I talked with him afterwards and told him it was OK to get individual honors and that they are something positive for the team.”
Harrington and Becnel are honor students who are looking forward to college. Becnel wants to major in business and would like to play college baseball. Harrington is considering walking on to a state college football team and plans a major in construction management.
They don’t see each other as much as they used to, but they do talk and text. Harrington said that when he sees Becnel very little has changed.
Both players are looking forward to Friday’s game, but Becnel points out the obvious down side.
“I wish we were playing in the finals like we did last year,” Becnel said. “We’d both finish our careers in the (Mercedes-Benz) Superdome. Unfortunately, that won’t happen.”