Twins Salaam and A'Laam Horne asked one question when their uncle, Timothy Horne, told the two that they should go to St. Joseph High School to play football for coach Paul Sacco.
"I was like, 'Who's that?' " Salaam said.
Sacco, the winningest coach in Cape-Atlantic League history with 276 career victories, now gets his revenge. He freely admits he can't tell the identical twins from Vineland apart. The twins don't even correct him anymore when he greets them with the wrong name in school hallways.
"He mixes us up every day," A'Laam said. "We got used to it."
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound sophomore twins have emerged as two of the CAL's top players this season. St. Joe (10-1) will play St. Mary's (Rutherford) (9-2) for the state Non-Public I title 1 p.m. Saturday at The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township.
Salaam plays quarterback, defensive back and returns punts. A'Laam starts at running back and defensive back. The two have combined to score 22 touchdowns.
"The (the twins) have made a great impact," St. Joe standout linebacker and fullback C.J. LaFragola said. "They're stepping up more and more every week. They fly around. They always come to play and that's what I love about them."
Can LaFragola tell the twins apart?
"If they're standing together," he said with a laugh.
St. Joe rallied for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat Hammonton 28-21 last Saturday. Salaam and A'Laam carried the ball on nearly every play in the final 12 minutes.
Their biggest asset is their speed. Salaam returned four punts for touchdowns this season - all longer than 40 yards. A'Laam returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown against Hammonton. A'Laam not only sprinted away from would-be tacklers, he even jumped over a pile of players at midfield. A'Laam averages 11.3 yards per carry.
"They're young. They're still learning. They make mistakes," Sacco said.
But they also quickly make up for any miscues. In a 50-0 playoff win over Queen of Peace on Nov. 23, Salaam threw an interception. One play later, he picked off a pass with one hand and returned it 80 yards to the Queen of Peace 10-yard line to set up St. Joe's first touchdown.
"They're going to be really something down the road," Sacco said. "They're fun to watch now. They're two great kids. They work hard."
The twins started playing football in Vineland when they were 8-years-old. They were born on Nov. 28, 1997. Salaam is older by 22 minutes.
The twins have a connection to St. Joe. Their uncle Timothy played running back and defensive end for the St. Joe team that won the state Non-Public I title in 1993.
"This is home right here," Salaam said.
The twins began to emerge as varsity contributors as freshman. A'Laam intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter to preserve a key 28-25 late-season win over Atlantic City.
Salaam didn't begin the season as the starting quarterback, but he quickly proved himself in a preseason scrimmage against Don Bosco Prep - one of the nation's best high school programs.
Salaam entered the game as quarterback in the fourth quarter and scrambled up the middle 81 yards for a touchdown and then ran around the end 68 yards for another score.
"They both proved to us in the Don Bosco scrimmage they could play," Sacco said. "If you're 15-years-old and you can play well against Don Bosco, you can do it anywhere."
Contact Michael McGarry:
State Non-Public I football title
Who: St. Mary's (Rutherford) vs. St. Joseph
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: The College of New Jersey, Ewing Twp.