Luke and Zach Slaton woke up this past Saturday at 8 a.m. and became football referees. Sure, they were tired. Sore, too, no doubt. The night before, the two had combined for 248 yards of offense and five touchdowns in North Forsyth’s 34-27 victory at Cherokee. By the time they got back to North and had some food, they just wanted to sleep.
The brothers woke up less than seven hours later anyway. They drove together to West Forsyth High School to ref a youth recreational football game. Without pads or helmet, the two were revealed as they really are – maybe 5-foot-8, maybe 160 pounds each. The football dads walking by had to ask the boys if they played football (yes), then had to ask if they were any good (yes) and then had to joke how they outweighed the two combined.
"Little did they know," Luke said.
The dads surely didn’t see Luke, a senior, rush 13 times for 58 yards, catch two passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns and play every snap on defense at cornerback. They probably missed Zach, a sophomore, making his first career start and rushing for 109 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries.
"Even though they’re small in stature, you can’t measure their heart," North coach Jason Galt said. "They’re not scared. They’ll pound [the ball] up in there. They’re just fearless."
This fearless quality coming from a Slaton isn’t new to North. Indeed, Luke and Zach have a name to live up to with a legacy attached.
Their older brother, Tyler, lettered four years in football and baseball at North. He’s a sophomore playing baseball at Clemson now, but when he graduated from North in 2011 he left as the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,685 yards.
"He’s the one who got it all started," Zach said.
Tyler’s prodigious career belied his appearance. Listed by Clemson at 5-foot-7, he produced for North through guile and guts.
Tyler provided the formula. Luke and Zach have followed it.
"They’ve just got that mentality," Galt said. "They come from a blood line here at North."
But Tyler never got to experience what Luke and Zach did Friday night. With starting running backs Jamal Davenport and Payton Holbrooks nursing minor injuries, Galt inserted Luke and Zach – two Slatons starting in the backfield for the first time.
"I was psyched," Zach said. "They called me and my brother out for starting and that’s when I got pumped up. That whole week I was focused when I heard Peyton and Jamal would be out. I had to step up."
Said Luke: "I loved it, wouldn’t want to share it with anyone else. … It’s more than just a teammate out there with you. It’s family."
Galt said each has a unique style of running. Luke barrels into defenders. Zach eludes them.
But both made plays in crucial situations against Cherokee. Down 20-13 in the third quarter, Zach ran for his third touchdown from 6 yards out to give North the lead before Luke caught touchdown passes of 17 and 49 yards in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"Everybody looks at us like, ‘Oh, you all probably weigh 250 pounds combined,’" Luke said. "It doesn’t matter. We proved it doesn’t matter on Friday."
Davenport and Holbrooks are expected to return when North (3-0) opens region play at Chattahoochee (2-1) on Friday, which means Luke and Zach probably won’t get as many carries, though Luke will still contribute significantly on defense.
But Galt said he knows if called upon, the Slaton brothers will deliver.
"They don’t get nervous. They don’t get flustered," Galt said. "They just have that knack for making plays."