Danny Webster Jr. and Justin Hardy wear the same purple uniform for the East Carolina Pirates. They joke and laugh as if they were two old friends.
But there was a time when they lined up on opposite sides of the football field, squaring off in a Craven County football rivalry that often decides conference championships and playoff seeding.
And they participated in arguably one of that rivalry’s best games, when Webster’s Havelock Rams defeated Hardy’s West Craven Eagles 42-40 in 2009.
After a recent practice at ECU, the two high school quarterbacks said they didn’t necessarily remember specifics of that 2009 contest, but both remembered the last play, Webster’s interception of Hardy’s pass in the end zone.
"It came down to the wire, a last play Hail Mary," Hardy said, "And Danny picked it off."
As in many games through the years in the rivalry, the game played Nov. 6, 2009, determined the Coastal 3A Conference championship. The Rams and Eagles entered the game with identical 9-1 overall records and perfect 6-0 league marks.
And the contest lived up to its billing as a showdown between two of the top teams in the region.
"I remember there were a bunch of athletes for both teams," Hardy said.
The contest was tight throughout, with Havelock holding a 21-19 lead at halftime thanks in part to a bad snap on an extra point and a failed two-point try by West Craven.
The Rams seemingly took control late, with Webster scoring on a 25-yard run with 1:31 left in the game, lifting Havelock to a 42-33 lead.
Hardy counterpunched. He threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Murphy with 17 seconds left, and the Eagles recovered the ensuing onside kick.
The packed stands on both sides of Havelock High’s stadium stood in unison as Hardy made one last heave toward the end zone. Webster jumped higher than the rest and came down with the ball, clinching the victory and the first outright league title for Havelock’s then second-year coach Jim Bob Bryant.
"It was just score after score after score," Webster said of the game. "One team would score and the other would answer. It was back and forth. It was like shooting bullets at each other and waiting for the other to die. That’s how it was the whole time."
Beyond the closeness of the contest, the game showcased the talents of Webster and Hardy on the field.
Webster accounted for all six of Havelock’s touchdowns, throwing for three and running for three. He threw for 214 yards and rushed for another 91.
Hardy, meanwhile, threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns — and that one interception.
"I had six total, and he threw for four," Webster said of the touchdowns. "It was a battle."
Both players said they don’t find much time to talk about the game with their busy schedules at ECU.
"But I let him know about it every now and then," Webster joked.
And Hardy holds no animosity toward Webster for his last-play interception.
"None at all," ECU’s leading receiver said. "It was a Hail Mary. It’s hit or miss. You either catch it or you don’t. I was just hoping we’d make a play."
Plus, Hardy always has 2008, when his Eagles thumped the Rams 47-0 in Webster’s first year as a starting quarterback his sophomore year.
Both admit that their schedules at ECU don’t allow them much time to focus on how their alma maters are doing on the football field. However, they both say they will be paying a little more attention as the rivals prepare to meet for a 46th time at 7 p.m. Friday at West Craven.
They said there is no friendly wager, but if the loser had to wear the winning team’s jersey, Webster has an idea what would happen.
"He don’t want that because he’ll have to wear that Havelock jersey the whole week," Webster joked.
Either way, they expect the contest between the 9-1 Rams and 5-5 Eagles to add to the rivalry.
"It’s always a good game," Hardy said.
"Yeah, it will definitely be a good game," Webster added. "It will be a good matchup. It will be exciting, and it’s going to be a sellout. Havelock travels."
Havelock holds the all-time series lead against West Craven 30-15. The first game was played in 1958, with Havelock winning 33-8. West Craven's first win in the series was 14-8 in 1980.
The Rams have won three straight in the series, including last year’s 76-14 victory that tied Havelock’s single-game record for most points scored.
The two teams have played every year since 1971, making it Havelock’s longest continuous rivalry. In the series, 19 of the 45 games have been decided by eight points or less.