Jake (left) and Sam (right) Vermillion are twins and bookend defensive ends for Madison. The Warhawks play Monrovia in a CIF Division III state regional bowl game Saturday.
JoJo Hudson saw double.
Then it hit him.
On one side was Sam Vermillion. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder went low and corralled Hudson by the ankles.
On the other was Jake Vermillion. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder went high.
Down went Hudson, the St. Augustine quarterback felled by a ferocious combo sack in the second quarter. His team, the favorite in last Saturday’s San Diego Section Division IV championship game, would go with him, dropping a 35-21 decision to Madison.
As for the Vermillion twins? They have played, quite literally, a big role in the Warhawks’ second section title in three years.
Saturday night, the junior defensive ends will try to help Madison win a CIF Division III regional bowl game. The Warhawks (12-1) travel to Monrovia High for a 7:30 p.m. showdown with the Wildcats (12-2).
The winner advances to next weekend’s state bowl game at the Home Depot Center.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Sam, “and I get to do it with my brother.”
Sam, the older of the two by four minutes, has been a force off the right edge for Madison this season, mixing speed and strength on his way to 9.5 sacks and five fumble recoveries. He also starts at center.
Jake, the heavier of the two by 15 pounds, has been a game-changer on the left side. He’s collected 54 tackles, returned an interception for a touchdown and scored another on a fumble recovery. He rotates between guard and tackle on offense, occasionally lining up next to his brother.
“I think our lines, both offensively and defensively, have really carried us through,” Madison coach Rick Jackson said. “That’s saying a lot considering who we have in the backfield and our quarterback and our receivers.”
Arizona-bound running back Pierre Cormier has rushed for 1,940 yards and 26 touchdowns. Fellow Wildcat commit Lee Walker has 11 receiving scores. Sophomore quarterback Kareem Coles has blossomed, throwing 21 TDs against just seven interceptions.
All of them have benefited from the presence of both Vermillion twins this fall. Jake missed last season after dislocating his left kneecap in training camp. At Rady Children’s Hospital, Dr. Andrew Pennock replaced Jake’s patellar ligament with one from a cadaver.
“I don’t find it weird,” Jake said. “Some other people do, but as long as I can walk and play football, I’m good.”
The brothers’ reunion on the football field has provided a testosterone-laden stage for their competitive streaks.
“We go one-on-ones and I’ll win, and then he’ll win,” Sam said. “It just goes back and forth.”
Asked who is the better baseball player — Sam mans the hot corner, Jake crouches behind home plate — both brothers instinctively point to themselves.
Jake, the more outspoken twin, admits Sam usually out-duels him in video games, but he adds: “We have a pool in our backyard. I’m probably faster than he is at swimming.”
Meanwhile, coaches and teammates unanimously agree the Warhawks are better with both brothers, each showcasing unique strengths.
“Jake’s more of that run-stop, real physical guy,” Jackson said. “We can put him down in the box, down in the three-point stance or inside. Sam can get out and cover a tight end or a slot guy if we needed to. They really give us a lot of ability to do a lot of things defensively.”
Added senior linebacker and leading tackler Keoni Kanoa: “They’re just full of energy. You can count on both of them. You can have them do whatever you ask. They’ll run through a wall.”
Already, Pac-12 schools are courting the Vermillions, who only started playing football in the eighth grade — until then, they were too big for Pop Warner competition. Arizona, Stanford and UCLA have called about the twins, who project as college defensive ends and have the frames to reach 280 pounds.
“We haven’t totally decided yet,” said Sam, who celebrated a 17th birthday with Jake last Wednesday, “but we’re probably, hopefully gonna stay together.”