Columbus North senior Ezra Followell and Columbus East senior Joey Bastian have been best friends since kindergarten. They spent years as classmates and football teammates in various schools and youth football programs until they went separate ways in high school.
Beginning at 7 tonight, they will be on opposing high school football teams for the final time as East travels to North for their annual rivalry game. Both are offensive linemen who wear No. 63.
The two got together after their respective practices this week to talk with Republic sports editor Jay Heater about their friendship, going opposite ways for high school and the big game. Followell, a 6-foot-2, 250-pounder, will start at center; and Bastian, a 6-foot-1, 265-pounder, will be a starting right offensive guard.
What made you both choose your respective high schools?
Ezra Followell: “My mom (Anita Ebenkamp) got remarried, and we moved a little closer to North. I already had been taking SAQ (speed, agility, quickness) classes at North. I liked it.”
Joey Bastian: “I was going to go to North, but my mom (Deanna Bastian) wanted me to go to the East open house. My mom wouldn’t let me go anywhere else.”
Did you talk to each other about making a decision?
EF: “We really didn’t, but we wouldn’t let our friendship get in the way of our decision.”
JB: “We didn’t talk before, but he was like freaking out after I decided. I think it kind of blindsided him.”
Do you think about the fact that your moms (Deanna Bastian, 1980 North grad; Anita Ebenkamp, 1985 East grad) went to the opposite schools that you chose?
EF: “My mom says she will support me at North, but she bleeds orange.”
JB: “I think it is OK because my mom didn’t have a lot of ties to North.”
If you both went to same school, and you both played offensive guard, who would be the starter?
EF: “I would probably be the one to move. I am really better at center.”
JB: “I would say I would be the one to move. I am really more of a tackle or I could go another way.”
If you found the other’s high school varsity playbook, what would you do with it?
EF: “I would check it out and take pictures. Every advantage helps.”
JB: “I would probably do the same. I would give it back to Ezra after I took pictures of it and make like I didn’t do anything with it. And then I would probably feel bad about it.”
Did you think you would ever line up against each other in a game?
EF: “No, not really. I’ve been playing offense my whole life.”
JB: “I’ve been playing nothing but offense, too, so I didn’t think it would happen.”
What did you say to each other after East won last year’s game 48-13?
EF: “I just told him he played a heck of a game. I said, ‘You guys stomped our butts.’ We hung out the next day, and the game did come up.”
JB: “I just told him that he had done great from what I saw. I had to give him a little something, but there wasn’t much else to say. The next day, though, I did mess with him.”
If you did end up on the field at the same time, and you saw the other looking the other way and vulnerable to a hit, would you take the shot?
EF: “I’m pretty aggressive on the field. I’d definitely take the shot.”
JB: “I would take the shot. I would have to hit him. Then later I would tell him that I smashed him.”
How did you both wind up as No. 63? Does it have some special meaning?
EF: “I was 76 as a freshman, and I didn’t want that number. I was going to play center, and I didn’t think 75 was a center number. I thought 63 was more of a center number, and I looked up to (Colts center) Jeff Saturday. I remember later talking to Joey and asking him what number he got. ‘Sixty-three? No way!’”
JB: “When I went to get a number, that’s all that was left. I didn’t have a choice.”
Who is the better singer?
EF: “Probably me. I can stay in pitch.”
JB: “I’m terrible. It is not that hard to beat me.”
So, Joey, is there a song that Ezra sings that you never want to hear again?
JB: “Yes. ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’”
If one of you went downtown and saw the other with five of his teammates, would you stay and hang out, or would you slip away?
EF: “I would hang out. We grew up hanging out with most of the same guys.”
JB: “I could hang out as long as it wasn’t this week. Most of my better friends are from North.”
Is this week different than all the others?
EF: “It’s a pretty emotional week. You grow up dreaming about the North-East game your senior year. You want to make it special.”
JB: “You don’t want to say too much this week because if something does come up and you say something, it can get blown out of proportion.”
If one of your teams goes further in the playoffs, will the one who is finished go support the other?
EF: “Most definitely. After the North-East game, we put it behind us. Then we just support Columbus.”
JB: “As long as North is not playing us, I root for them. I love those guys.”
If you were at the other’s house, and you heard his mom say he had hurt ribs, would you tell your teammates?
EF: “Every little thing can help, so yes. It’s all for the game and my team.”
JB: “I would go straight to my teammates. We would take advantage of that. Of course, if my teammate hits him in the ribs, it’s not my fault. So I would throw that out there.”
Who is better looking?
EF: “I don’t want to answer that (laughing). That’s rough.”
JB: “It’s not rough for me. It’s him.”
Who is faster?
EF: “We’re about the same; although in the 40-yard dash, it’s probably me. I would say that if we were in my backyard and we both were trying to get something, it would probably be him. I know that doesn’t make sense.”
JB: “When we were young, it was probably me. But I think we are about the same.”
Who is stronger?
EF: “Me. I am a hard worker in the weight room. Are we talking about numbers?”
JB: “Let’s not do numbers. I do all I can, but I’ve never had any upper body strength.”
What do you think the other will do eventually for a living?
EF: “Joey is way funny and social. He gets along with everyone. I know he is interested in business, and he is good with words.”
JB: “Ezra is a smart kid, and I also would say he is interested in business. Everyone likes him ... and he is a good-looking guy.”
What do you think of the other’s team going into Friday?
EF: “East’s defensive line is the strength of that defense. Most of the guys are fast and strong. But we have an athletic, strong offensive line, so it is a good matchup.”
JB: “They’re fast, strong and agile. They have a great team. This is going to be a hard-fought game.”
Do you love the rivalry between North and East?
EF: “I love it. I think it makes this town what it is. And when it is your senior year, it means even more.”
JB: “A few people take it too far, but as long as you don’t, it’s great.”