Derrick Brown remembers his first encounter with Adam Pulsipher.
Both were big-bodied kids exchanging blows in the paint for their varsity basketball squads, both were sophomores and both were on the cusp of starring roles under the Friday night lights.
Two years later, both NCAA Division I prospects ---- Brown a quarterback at Vista Murrieta and Pulsipher a middle linebacker at Temecula Valley ---- realized their potential in banner 2010 seasons.
For Brown, the All-Valley Offensive Player of the Year, that meant accounting for 39 touchdowns in leading the Broncos to their second straight CIF Southern Section Inland Division championship game appearance. For Pulsipher, the All-Valley Defensive Player of the year, his tenacity in the middle of the field spearheaded a defensive effort that helped the Golden Bears win five games after back-to-back one-win seasons.
The Bears, in fact, had a few more wins within their grasp under new coach Paul McGowen, with Pulsipher making his usual impression on his opponent.
"I remember when we were sophomores how we used to have our wars pushing each other around on the court," said Brown, who might line up against the BYU-bound Pulsipher again during his career at Utah. " ... There's no way you can't notice him on the field. He's big, he's physical and he hits people hard. When you're playing the game, you definitely want to find someone else to run at and have tackle you."
Pulsipher made his share of tackles at Temecula Valley, too.
A starter since his sophomore season, when he saw most of his action at tight end, he piled up 143 tackles and two sacks as a junior and had a full scholarship offer sewed up from BYU ---- where both his dad and older brother, Andrew, played ---- by the end of the summer. Then this year, Pulsipher added 126 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions in leading the revival of one of the area's oldest programs.
"I cannot believe how much he improved from his junior year to his senior year ---- from his footwork speed, strength and tenacity," Chaparral coach Tom Leach said. "(Temecula Valley) went from one win to five and Pulsipher was a big part of that. You game-planned to stop him. We had to know where he was on the field."
That sentiment was shared throughout the Southwestern League, where Pulsipher was named he circuit's defensive MVP. But for Pulsipher ---- who recorded 20 tackles, 17 solo, in a loss to Elsinore and had more than 10 tackles in nine of his 10 games ---- the team's revival was what really resonated with the 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker.
It all started with a season-opening 40-0 victory over Hemet, too.
"It was big, just for our confidence," said Pulsipher, who scored his team's first touchdown of the year on a bruising, 11-yard run as a fullback. "We knew we were talented and we knew we could play. We just hadn't done it.
"That first win was huge for us. It really set the tone for the year."
At Vista Murrieta, the Broncos have become accustomed to winning under founding coach Coley Candaele. Brown, however, took it to new levels the last two seasons after taking his lumps as a sophomore starting quarterback.
Under Brown's watch, the Broncos were 25-3 the last two years, with the 6-foot-3 quarterback piling up 71 total touchdowns (36 passing, 34 rushing and one circus catch for a TD), 3,401 yards passing and 1,863 yards on the ground while coming up with his biggest plays in the clutch. This year alone, Brown threw for 19 touchdowns, rushed for another 19 and hauled in a scoring catch on a trick play that still brings a smile to Brown's face.
Physical runs, however, are more up Brown's alley and he and Pulsipher left lasting impressions when they went heads up in October.
"He's a big dude, definitely," Pulsipher said of Brown. "He's athletic and well-deserving of the offensive MVP."
Big moments defined Brown's career at Vista Murrieta, too.
His last-minute touchdown pass to Casey Marquez in 2009 ---- which vaulted the Broncos past Norco and into the finals ---- already ranks as one of the top plays in Valley history. This year, his improv fake punt run jumpstarted Vista Murrieta's offense against Rancho Cucamonga in the semis, a game the Broncos won after Brown rushed for two touchdowns on two overtime snaps.
None of it surprised the onlookers who followed Brown the closest the last few seasons.
"You watch him play, and there's just this presence," Leach said of Brown, the Southwestern League offensive MVP. "It's like a calming presence and I'm sure his teammates felt it.
"You just knew he was going to make a play ... and as an opposing coach you hate that feeling of waiting for him to make a play."