Twins make area sports games twice the fun

The best athletes can make spectacular plays that cause viewers to do a double take.

Tri-parish sports fans have another reason for thinking they are experiencing déjà vu.

Twin athletes have been tearing up the local sports scene.

On the football field, Ellender sophomore defensive backs Jamahl and Jamehl Payton, both 16, have brought toughness to the Patriots’ secondary.

South Terrebonne seniors Brea and Brooke Domangue have excelled for the Lady Gators on the soccer field and in cross country and track.

Nicholls State University freshmen cross-country runners Brea and Dakota Goodwin have helped push the Colonels to its first ever Top 15 ranking in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll.

Unlike the classic “Patty Duke Show” theme song, which suggests that twins walk, talk and act alike, these identical siblings say they have minds and games of their own.

Double Trouble

Like with most sets of twins, friends come up with clever nicknames for them.

For the Paytons, that includes Big Twin and Little Twin (Jamahl is 20 pounds heavier), Twin 1 and Twin 2 (Jamahl is 20 minutes older), Burgundy and Gold and Tia and Tamara (a reference to the 1990s WB sitcom about twin sisters).

Born on Jan. 16, 1993, Jamahl and Jamehl arrived in Houma in 2005 after evacuating from their Gretna home during Hurricane Katrina to live with their grandmother.

“It’s a little slower down here,” Jamahl admitted. “It’s a lot different than back home.”

But playing in Terrebonne Parish’s recreational football league helped the two quickly adjust to their new surroundings.

This is their first year playing football at Ellender. They didn’t try out as freshmen because Jamahl had knee surgery.

“I didn’t want to be out there playing while he was still recovering,” Jamehl said.

They did, however, go on to play on the junior varsity basketball team – Jamehl at point guard and Jamahl at shooting guard.

The teens said they can communicate with each other when not speaking and that it is helpful in whatever sport they are playing.

“On the basketball court, I don’t know, it’s just like a sense,” Jamehl said. “I know where he’s going to be already and I just throw it in that direction and he gets it.”

“It’s like when they put me in at quarterback,” Jamahl agreed. “I just know if I’m running from defenders, he’s going to come back for the ball.”

Although the duo prefers the round ball to the pigskin, they have brought that same level of trust and communication to the gridiron.

Besides being starting defensive backs, Jamahl is a backup quarterback and punt returner, while Jamehl is a backup running back

“They give us that little extra on defense that we had to have,” said Ellender head football coach Tawaskie Anderson. “They bring leadership and communication. Even though they are 10th graders, a lot of the players on defense look up to those guys.

“They’re good athletes, too,” he continued. “They’re quiet, well-mannered kids, but they lead through their actions and aggressive style when they get on the field.”

Off the field, the brothers said people have a difficult time telling them apart. In response, Jamahl had the tips of his dreadlocks dyed burgundy and Jamehl had his dyed in gold, thus the nicknames “Burgundy” and “Gold.”

“It took me a year to realize we had twins in school,” Anderson admitted. “I was like, ‘I just saw you.’ And one of them said, ‘No, that’s my twin brother.'”

The brothers said the real difference in their personalities is that Jamahl is more laid back, while Jamehl likes to have things done his way.

That doesn’t mean life as a twin is always easy or fair.

“We share a bedroom and we got bunk beds,” Jamehl noted. “I always sleep at the top. He never wants to let me sleep at the bottom. When I get sick, I got to jump to the top. When he gets sick I got to go run errands for him.”

The pair only has one class together – third period integrated math.

They tried to do the classic “switch classes” move, but got caught by a less-than-amused instructor.

“We did that one time, but the teacher caught us,” Jamehl confessed. “She told us to get back to our class. I don’t know how she knew. She said she knew because (Jamahl) doesn’t talk a lot and I started talking.”

The duo said they will try out for the baseball team in the winter: Jamahl at shortstop and Jemehl at catcher.

“They call us double trouble,” the pair said together. “You see we got that brother connection. You heard it?” Jamehl asked.

The Same, but Different

Born on Dec. 14, 1991, Brea and Brooke Domangue have been into sports since their parents, Herman and Angellé, put them in recreation at age 6. First it was cheerleading, then softball, volleyball, basketball and soccer.

They do occasionally say the same thing at the same time, but that’s about it for similarities.

Despite their mutual love of sports, the 17-year-old Bourg natives said they are completely opposites. Depending on who you ask, they either look alike or nothing like the other.

“We have so many differences that if you just look at us, we’re different,” Brooke said. There’s the height difference (Brea is 5’3″; Brooke is 5’6″), the eyes (Brea’s are hazel; Brooke’s are blue) and hair are different. We act differently. I’m more on the quiet side. She’s more loud.”

“I’m not loud, I’m just outgoing,” corrected Brea, younger by eight minutes. “When they look at us, they say she’s the ‘girlie girl’ and I’m the tomboy, and it’s totally opposite.”

In fact, the duo has never tried to switch places because they said nobody would be fooled.

The Domangue twins’ differences carry over on their various teams as well.

Brea is on the Gators’ cross-country team and runs the middle distances in track. Brooke runs the sprint and is a pole vaulter on the track team.

In basketball, Brooke scores on offense, while Brea keeps other teams at bay defensively.

In volleyball, Brooke was on the front row, while Brea was on the back row.

In soccer, Brooke is a striker and Brea plays in different areas of the field.

“We always did something different and never competed against each other,” Brooke said. “But for cheerleading, we’re both flyers. Sometimes we get competitive with that. Plus, I tell her what to do since I’m the co-captain.”

The twins got into cheerleading to spend time with friends.

“We had to talk our mom into it because she’s more into sports and she wanted us to be into sports,” Brea said. “So in middle school, we did cheerleading, volleyball and softball.”

Brea and Brooke don’t consider their ability to sense where the other is on the field as something special connected to their being twins or sisterhood.

“It’s not a mental thing,” Brooke said. “I’ll know to be in a certain spot because I know where she’s supposed to be.”

For all their differences however, the older the pair gets, the more they believe they are starting to look alike.

“Brea used to be taller, but I guess I hit a growth spurt,” Brooke said. “I used to be 15 pounds heavier, but now we’re close to the same weight. I guess one day we’ll eventually get everything to be the same.”

Wisconsin on the Bayou

After surviving negative-45 degree temperatures, Brea and Dakota Goodwin agree the heat and humidity of south Louisiana seems like paradise.

It’s one of the reasons the LaCrosse, Wisc., natives found their way down to the bayou. That and Nicholls cross-country coach Matthew Esche knew of their exploits when he used to live just two hours south in Milwaukee.

“Coach Matt called us one night and offered us a chance to run down here,” said Dakota Goodwin, younger by four minutes. “We visited and we really liked the atmosphere, how small the campus was. We like the team aspect of this school, and definitely the weather. You guys don’t have that cold of a winter.”

Born April 8, 1991, to Barbara and John Goodwin, the duo got the love of running from their father’s side of the family.

“They inspired us because they’re all runners and marathoners,” Brea Goodwin said.

The Goodwins have helped lead the Colonels women’s cross-country team to three second-place finishes in three meets this year. The latest came this past weekend at the LSU Invitational.

The marks solidified the team’s No. 11 ranking in the South Central Region of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll. It the first time the women’s cross-country team has ever been ranked.

“They bring another level of competitiveness and determination that we haven’t had here in a while,” Esche said. “They’re very accomplished athletes. They ran for the USTF (United States Track & Field) Junior National Championships. They know what it takes to compete at that high level.

“They, along with the rest of this group, are some of the most talented runners Nicholls has seen in a while,” the coach added. “They’re going to set the bar high for future runners that come here.”

Brea and Dakota started competing in their local hometown races during the sixth grade.

By high school, each motivated the other, in races and training.

“One day, she’ll be tired and I’ll push her through it. The next day, I’ll be tired and she’ll push me through it,” Brea Goodwin said. “That’s makes us faster. Because we’re so competitive with each other, we’re pushing each other to be better without realizing it.”

Dakota had never finished ahead of Brea in a cross-country meet until she placed fourth in her first 5K race at the Southern Mississippi Invitational on Sept. 4.

Dakota clocked in at 18:54:57, while Brea finished 19:32:22.

There was actually a moment when the twins thought they would end up at different colleges. Brea was considering enrolling at the University of Minnesota. Dakota did not get accepted because of her ACT scores and was considering another college. But fate – and Esche – stepped in.

“He told her if she brought up her scores, we could run for him at Nicholls, and that’s what she did,” Brea said. “We probably wouldn’t have gone our separate ways anyway because we do everything together.”

Doing everything together means people often get the two mixed up.

The psychology majors have all the same classes together this semester, so they switch classes and trick teachers and students like they did in high school.

“One time, I beat her in the mile and people were like, ‘Go Brea, or whatever one you are,'” Dakota Goodwin joked.

There is one other way to tell them apart – Dakota is the more easy-going twin.

“If I do bad in race, I’ll get frustrated, but I won’t dwell on it. I move on,” she explained. “Brea is more driven. If she does badly in a race, she’ll obsess about it until she hits her (personal record).”

So far, bad races haven’t been part of their Nicholls’ experience. After three second-place finishes, they’re pushing to win a meet for their team.

“In high school, we didn’t have a real team,” Dakota Goodwin said. “So now that we actually have a team, it definitely gives Brea and I more motivation because we love our team to death and we can work together toward one goal – winning.”

You look familiar! Jamehl (8) and Jamahl (2) Payton grab some water during a timeout. The sophomore Ellender Patriots starting defensive backs are among several twins excelling in Tri-parish area sports. * Photo by KEYON K. JEFF