Growing up, brothers Josh and Justin Stepp shared many memories.
But it would be hard to top the one the 32-year-old twins shared Friday night when they were on the sidelines together as Josh’s Lexington squad defeated Spartanburg 38-35 in the Class 4A Division II semifinals.
The Wildcats will play in their first state title game since 2000 when they take on Northwestern on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“To have him with me Friday night when we won that semifinal game, you can’t put it into words what it meant for our family,” said Josh, who has the Wildcats in the title game in his third season as head coach.
Justin agreed with his twin and rearranged his busy schedule to make sure he was at Wofford’s Gibbs Stadium that night. Justin, who completed his first season as receivers coach at SMU for former Clemson assistant Chad Morris, is at the end of the recruiting cycle and was scheduled to host a recruit Friday night.
But Morris, a former high school coach himself, stresses the importance of family and wanted his assistant to be on the sideline. So, Justin boarded a plane in Texas and flew into Charlotte in the afternoon. When his connecting flight to Greenville was cancelled, he got an Uber driver to take him to the nearest rent-a-car place, and he drove the rental car to Spartanburg.
Justin arrived in plenty of time to surprise Josh in the locker room before the game. The two shared a hug, and even some tears before and following the game. Justin was back at the airport a few hours later for his 5 a.m. flight back to Texas to do more recruiting.
It wasn’t the first time this season the two did something like this. After a Lexington game earlier this season, Josh flew to Texas to surprise his brother and watch the Mustangs play.
Justin plans on making the journey to South Carolina for Saturday’s state title game.
“No other place I would rather be,” Justin said. “We always dreamed about playing in a state title game. And I knew if he ever made it to one, I was going to be there.”
Both say the closeness of their relationship has a lot to do with them being twins. Josh is the older by one minute.
The two were inseparable growing up and ultracompetitive. Justin said it was so bad at one point, their father Tim stopped going golfing with them because one tried to out do their other.
On the field, they had a good chemistry and enjoyed stellar careers at Pelion High with Josh at quarterback and Justin his top receiver. The two helped the Panthers to an unbeaten regular season in 2000.
Josh said his brother was probably the better football player, because he played both ways.
Justin said his brother is the more gifted athlete and things just came easier both on the field and in the classroom.
“I would stay up studying late at night and he would go to bed and make just as good of grades as I would,” Justin said. “That is just the way he was. He could probably go out now on the golf course and shoot under 80 without any practice.“
After high school, both signed to play football at Furman. But Josh transferred to Newberry following his redshirt freshman season.
“That was a huge deal because we probably never spent more than a night apart growing up,” Justin said. “But it ended up being good for both of us.”
The two enjoyed standout college careers with Josh leading Newberry to its first Division II playoff appearance. Josh broke several school records and was named South Atlantic Conference Player of the Year in 2006.
Justin was a two-time Southern Conference player at Furman.
When their playing days were done, both knew coaching was in their future. Their father was an assistant at Pelion and they wanted to follow in his footsteps.
Justin’s coaching career primarily has been in the college ranks, except for a year he spent at Fort Mill High. He has had stops at North Greenville, Clemson and Appalachian State before going with Morris to SMU.
Josh was an assistant at Pelion, Blythewood and Spring Valley before becoming head coach at Dreher in 2010. After three seasons, he became athletics director and coach at Lexington in 2013.
The Wildcats have made it to the playoffs in each of Stepp’s three seasons.
“It’s been an incredible journey since we walked in the door as a coaching staff,” Josh said. “We wanted to build the foundation and change the culture. We have been able to do that.”
Justin has been proud of what his brother has accomplished.
“He is a brilliant offensive mind and can see what it is happening before it does,” Justin said of his brother. “But the biggest thing is he loves those kids and they love playing for him.”
The two hope to reunite one day on the same coaching staff at the college level. Justin said his brother would be his first hire if he gets to make that decision.
Until then, both will have to cherish the memories like they had last week and the ones coming in Saturday’s title game.
“We will see what happens,” Josh said. “He is where he is supposed to be and I am exactly where I am supposed to be. But who knows what the future holds.”
The Stepp Brothers
High school: Pelion
College: Played QB at Furman and Newberry
Job: Head football coach, Lexington High
Of note: Named 2001 Shrine Bowl Offensive MVP
High school: Pelion
College: WR and punt returner at Furman
Job: Wide receivers coach, SMU
Of note: Two-time All-Southern Conference player
All games at Williams-Brice Stadium
Class 4A Division I
Dorman vs. Fort Dorchester, noon
South Pointe vs. Midland Valley, 3 p.m.
Class 4A Division II
Lexington vs. Northwestern, 6 p.m.
Tickets: $10 and will be sold at Lexington High School on Tuesday through Friday during school hours. Tickets also can be bought at the stadium on the day of the game.
Radio: 93.1 FM and online at www.lexingtonwildcats.com.
Live Stream: All games this weekend will be streamed on www.nfhsnetwork.com for a fee of $9.95. Burch Antley, Stacey Hough, Emerson Phillips and Tyler Cupp will be on the broadcasts.