Chazz Surratt proposed the fact, and his mother, Brandi, confirmed it: for all the football he and his younger brother, Sage, have played over their lives, they’ve never once played against each other. Maybe in after-school programs, maybe in pickup. But never in an official game.
That changes Friday.
Chazz, a redshirt junior linebacker for North Carolina, and Sage, a redshirt sophomore wide receiver for Wake Forest, will meet for the first time as opponents when the Tar Heels (2-0) visit the Demon Deacons (2-0). Step aside, Manning Bowl.
“It's going to be a big deal,” Chazz said Tuesday. “We've been talking about it for a while.”
The matchup has dominated headlines in Chapel Hill and Winston-Salem this week — more so than it would have a year ago, of course, considering Chazz’s position switch from quarterback in the spring.
Inside linebackers rarely cover outside receivers man to man. But a collision or two seems inevitable, considering how crucial both brothers have been to their respective units this season. They won’t leave the field too often.
In UNC’s wins over South Carolina and Miami, Chazz has 17 tackles, including 12 against USC, and a sack. And Sage, one of many key cogs on a formidable Demon Deacons offense, has 13 catches for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
As such, their trash talk has mounted in the last few weeks. When Sage had a 70-yard catch to set up Wake Forest's game-winning touchdown against Utah State in its season opener, Chazz ribbed him for getting chased down near the end zone rather than scoring.
On Tuesday, Sage told reporters he always took the last bowl of cereal when they were kids in Denver, North Carolina. Maybe that’s why his brother was so bitter. Later that night, Chazz gleefully repeated his plan if Sage comes over the middle.
“I'm going to try to lay him out,” he said.
It’s a fun idea to everyone except their mother, Brandi, who knows firsthand how competitive each of her sons is. It’s been a running joke since June, she told The Daily Tar Heel, but “now it’s gotten real.” Chazz’s enthusiasm at the concept has even prompted a playful warning from her: “You better not hurt my baby, or you’re not welcome at Thanksgiving.”
“The thought of him hitting or tackling Sage isn’t scary,” she said with a laugh, “but it’s not something that I’m crazy about.”
The Surratt family has a comprehensive plan for Friday. About 30 family members will travel to the game in Winston-Salem and split evenly — half for UNC, half for Wake Forest.
Ethan Kincaid, Chazz and Sage’s older brother, took time off from the Air Force and will sit on the Tar Heels’ side. Their parents, Brandi and Kevin, will both sit on the Wake Forest side, since that’s the home team. They considered splitting, but they decided watching the game side by side is a far better experience. It’s also an easier arrangement for Kevin’s mother, who will use handicap seating.
The set-up still comes with a wrinkle — although Brandi plans to wear black and gold Wake Forest gear, Kevin plans to don Carolina Blue. They lament the fact that one team must lose, but they also understand having two sons who start for 2-0 ACC football teams is a good problem to have.
“It’s a pretty cool story,” UNC defensive coordinator Jay Bateman joked. “They’re both really good players. I asked his mom and dad after the South Carolina game if they were planning on having any other ones. We’d like to offer that one a scholarship, too.”
There’s been a lot of talk, but the Surratts’ family and friends know it’s purely that: talk. UNC’s Nick Quigley, a senior walk-on wide receiver, played high school football with Chazz and Sage at East Lincoln, where the brothers set numerous NCHSAA individual records and also excelled in basketball.
Quigley told the DTH he’s looking forward to the matchup — “they're both like top-three, top-five athletes on their teams,” he said — but he’s also known Chazz for eight years and seen firsthand how ferociously protective he is of Sage.
"Their relationship is a true brother relationship,” Quigley said. “He would hurt somebody who ever hurt (Sage), so I don't know how that's going to work out this game.”
Barring an unlikely meeting in December’s ACC Football Championship game, the first Surratt Bowl will be the last Surratt Bowl. And Brandi doesn’t expect the winner to forget it any time soon.
“This is bragging rights for a lifetime, almost,” she said. “No older brother wants to lose to his younger brother.”
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