Siblings make difference for area teams

Friday, September 20, 2019 | 6:23 PM

Some say it’s their chins. One is slightly more chiseled than the other.

A few teammates or friends can separate them by their hairstyles: One has a slight flip in the front compared to a crew cut with bangs.

Others say it’s a slight change of inflection in their voices that sets them apart.

Whatever the case, the differences are subtle. But Penn-Trafford can attest to this: Two Frye brothers are better than one.

Junior defensive backs Mason and Nate Frye are identical twins.

They are making a nearly identical impact for the Warriors, who took a 4-0 record and a No. 1 ranking in WPIAL Class 5A into Friday night’s game at Massillon, Ohio.

Mason had 26 tackles, and Nate had 25. Last week, both had their names called several times as they wrapped up McKeesport ball-carriers.

“How do I tell them apart?” Warriors coach John Ruane asked. “One wears No. 26, and the other wears No. 6. Other than that, it’s pretty tough.”

Mason plays cornerback and wide receiver, and Nate lines up at free safety and running back.

“We’re similar in a lot of ways,” Mason said. “We’re both little guys who like to hit.”

The Fryes are not alone when it comes to siblings making an impact on area sports teams.

Here’s a sampling:

Greensburg Central Catholic, which has sophomore twin golfers in Ella and Meghan Zambruno. Both are key players for the Centurions, who will be chasing a fifth straight WPIAL title in the coming weeks.

• Speaking of twins, Justine and Gianna Appolonia are talented soccer players at Yough – one as a scorer the other as a shutdown defender.

Jeannette has three Sanders brothers playing football together in senior Imani, junior James and freshman Noah.

• Senior Connor Hudson gets to play a season with his freshman brother, Colton, on the top-ranked Franklin Regional boys soccer team. Both have scored goals as the Panthers chase a WPIAL repeat.

Penn-Trafford’s Yamricks — Adam (golf) and Sarah (tennis) — are competing in the WPIAL postseason.

-Derry has the Bushey brothers, Aidan and Ryan, key members of the playoff-bound golf team.

• The Tragessers – senior Chuck and junior Caroline — are among the scoring leaders of the Franklin Regional golf teams. Both have advanced in the WPIAL individual postseason.

• Mary and Sophia Smithnosky are key tennis players at Mt. Pleasant.

Southmoreland junior quarterback Zac Cernuto passed for over 200 yards the same week his sister, freshman Olivia, scored four goals in a soccer game. Both have the potential to be program-changing athletes for schools looking to end playoff droughts.

• Franklin Regional football has the hard-hitting Johns brothers, senior Justin and junior Colton.

• Conference opponent Latrobe includes brothers Dylan and Logan Gustafson, both junior running backs and linebackers.

• Two key brothers also suit up for Greensburg Central Catholic football in freshman quarterback Nate Dlugos and Zach Dlugos, a junior running back.

Yough has a promising sibling duo in junior quarterback Gamal Marballie and freshman running back and defensive back Khadeem Marballie.

“It’s cool to play with him. We might be in the same backfield,” Gamal Marballie said. “He’s is going to be pretty good. I always throw to him in the backyard.”

Zambruno has become a household name in the GCC golf program with the current Centurions’ older sisters, Olivia and Abby, playing Division I golf at Penn State and St. Francis, respectively. It’s a family tradition to win titles. No sibling rivalry here. They all find ways to, well, chip in.

“We definitely love playing together and help each other out because we are teammates and we never root against each other,” Ella Zambruno said. “We always hope the other plays well. We also have fun.”

Yough girls soccer also has the name Appolonia stitched into its fabric. The Cougars’ coach is Dann Appolonia, and a third sister, Leigh, played at Pitt-Johnstown. Justine Appolonia is headed to Youngstown State.

“I think what makes Gianna and I effective together is that we have grown up together and know almost everything about one another, including how we play soccer,” Justine said. “We are practically working as one unit when we play together and we’ll always have that sister bond that no one can relate to because every sibling relationship is different in some way.”

Back to the Fryes. Like many siblings, their playing styles are different but their commitment is parallel.

“They’re more similar than they are different,” Ruane said. “They both love football. They get excited to practice and they ask a ton of questions. They get excited when they make a play, but I think they get even more excited when their teammates make a play. They give us a spark on Friday nights.”

Nate Frye, two minutes older than Mason, will likely get some reps at running back with seniors Caleb Lisbon and Sam Fanelli out with knee injuries.

Should he join his brother in the slot, the Warriors could give new meaning to “twins right” or “twins left.”

“We’ve always played sports together,” Nate said. “Baseball, football, whatever. We have similar styles, but I’d say I am more competitive.”

That goes double for his brother.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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