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Best friends ignite Buena Park football
It was time for extra weight-lifting: an optional extra hour after the regular lifting session and football practice.
Dashiell, a 6-foot-1, 228-pound outside linebacker/defensive end, was power-cleaning 245 pounds.
Nelson, a 6-foot-6, 260 pound offensive tackle who usually cleans 225, shook his head. He couldn’t let his best friend come out on top. Nelson slapped 25 pounds on each side and began to lift.
Dashiell flashed a wide smile. Nice try. He put 35 on both sides – Nelson wasn’t going to top that.
The pair added more weight every few minutes, at one point reaching 315 pounds, a massive amount of weight, as Buena Park’s entire squad circled around them, howling to declare a winner.
“They’re always pushing each other. It gets extremely competitive,” said defensive line coach James “Gug” Guglielmana, who was there that day. “They’re always attached at the hip.”
Dashiell and Nelson’s teammates call them “Scooby Doo and Shaggy” and “Forrest and Bubba.” The seniors both have 4.0 grade point averages and are both team captains and members of the program’s Leadership Council.
The pair helped Buena Park (9-1, 5-0) capture the Freeway League championship outright for the first time since 1991. The team also upset La Habra, 27-13, on Oct. 21, spoiling the Highlanders’ 47-game Freeway League win streak.
The Coyotes will face San Juan Hills on Nov. 11 in the first round of CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs.
Four years ago, Dashiell and Nelson met on the first day of summer football practice. Nelson had never played football before. Dashiell sized him up: tall, lanky ... probably not on the team.
Nelson followed Dashiell around.
“He looked like he knew what he was doing,” said Nelson, who posted 5.04 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Nike Combine, the fastest at his position in the country.
Dashiell morphed into a relentless player, one of the strongest in the weight room benching up to 385 pounds. He’s also benched 225 pounds 24 times in a row, which is the test used for the NFL Combine.
On the field together, lifting together, eating together, playing Pokemon Showdown together, having epic Wii baseball and golf battles together ... the two have developed a bond.
Even when one loses.
“We played Madden and he beat me by a field goal,” Dashiell said of the popular football video game. “He will still not let me live that down. That was two years ago.”
“We literally became brothers,” Dashiell said. “It’s all fun for us.”
In practice, the two go against each other: Nelson on the offensive line, Dashiell on the defensive line. Even Buena Park’s coaches go at it – “My guy’s going to get it! No, my guy’s going to get it!”
“Neither of them takes a day off,” head coach Anthony White said. “They don’t want to cheat each other. They just want to get better. That’s just a sign of respect and a friendship that lasts a lifetime.”
They learn from each other, too.
“When they go one-on-one, neither of them feels like they’re going to see anyone better in league than each other,” said Nelson’s mother, Pam Nelson. “It helps them grow, like, ‘I got you that time, but this time you got me.’ It drives them to do better.”
The two also compete against each other on the school’s track team, first besting each other’s personal record in the shot put.
“No matter what, I can’t lose to him,” Nelson said.
“He’ll beat me in shot put,” Dashiell admits. “But my discus is on point.”
“We can’t let it stop,” Nelson said.
The pair, who also play on Buena Park’s basketball team, fights for the best grades in classes; they took AP English, AP U.S. History and Spanish 3 together last year. They tutor teammates who have questions about homework. They make sure everyone has a lunch and everyone is on time for team meetings.
“They understand that leading isn’t bossing people around,” teammate Adam Gonzales said. “They lead themselves, not just leading other people.”
Take the team’s socks rule: players can’t wear black socks, only white. No white socks, no practicing. No practicing, no playing.
“Cedric and Ryan, they always enforce those rules. They always wear white socks,” Gonzales said. “You never see a day where they aren’t wearing white socks. I’m not sure if they own a pair of black socks.”
Nelson is committed to play at the University of Virginia. Dashiell has garnered several college offers and is racking up more after his monster performance against La Habra with six sacks.
Beating La Habra meant everything, they said, a benchmark of how far they had come, as teammates and friends. They laughed, cried, screamed and took selfies for hours after the game ended.
“It meant four years of hard work,” Dashiell said. “We finally did it.”
The pair isn’t focused on the inevitable: the end of football season, the end of senior year, the end of attending school together.
They’re living in the moment: focused on bringing a league championship to Buena Park.
“They’re always the first to remind us, ‘We did good but our goal is to win league and win a CIF championship, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves,’” Guglielmana said. “They always say, ‘one game at a time, one practice at a time, let’s keep getting better.’”
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