It’s always a big rivalry when Madison’s eastside high schools — East and La Follette — take the field.
But there’s an added layer to tonight’s game — it’s a sibling rivalry as well.
Former Madison East running back Driss Amara is in his first year as the Purgolders’ running backs coach. Those running backs, including standout Devion Clay, will be running right into the Lancers’ defensive line, coached by another East alum — Driss Amara’s younger brother Ebrahim.
“I haven’t spoken to him all week,” Driss Amara said in an interview Thursday. “That’s how serious this is. This can be very competitive.”
Driss said his players know very well that their coach’s brother will be on the other sideline tonight — it’d be hard to hide it from them, since Ebrahim actually works at East as the multicultural services coordinator.
“It’s a weird dynamic, but I’m in my second year, so I’m getting used to it now,” Ebrahim said. “And the kids over here (at East), especially, they won’t let me live it down. So every hour I got kids running in and giving me a hard time.”
Driss said his players are amped for the sibling rivalry.
“We’ve had the best practice that we’ve had all season this week,” Driss said. “So they’re ready. They know.”
Ebrahim is taking a different approach, not even mentioning the sibling rivalry to his players.
“I think one of (my players) might know because he used to go to East, but aside of him, it’s not something that I want to add to the rivalry. You know, I think the kids have a big enough rivalry as it is,” he said.
Driss said the brothers’ strong Eastside roots make coaching here extra special.
“A lot of kids, I went to school with most of their family, so I’m very well connected to them and their family,” Driss said. “Really this is my old community so I was very proud to be a representative of my community, helping people who come from similar backgrounds that I do. It’s really helping them on the football, in terms of a football platform and academically.”
This is Driss Amara’s first season on the Purgolders’ coaching staff. After graduating from Eas in 2009, he went to Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota, then went on to earn a master’s degree in social work at Howard University in Washington, DC. While in DC he coached both high school football and basketball.
Ebrahim, meanwhile, graduated from East in 2011 and started at the University of Dubuque where he played defensive back and helped the Spartans win a conference championship as a freshman. He later transferred to UW-Whitewater, where injury cut his football career short.
He’s remained involved in the sport, though, coaching at East for three years before moving over to La Follette in 2016.
Both Driss and Ebrahim followed in the football footsteps of their oldest brother Abou Amara, also a running back at East in the early 2000s who went on to play for UW-Eau Claire. He’s now a civil rights and employment attorney in Minneapolis.
On paper, La Follette should have the edge. They’re 5-2 on the season, though they’re coming off a 54-13 drubbing at Verona. East, which only won one game last year, is a much more respectable 3-4, but are also coming off a thumping — they lost 47-14 to Sun Prairie a week ago.
“I think we match up well,” Driss said. “It really just comes down to if we can execute. I mean they have the favor in terms of the record because they’ve been winning games, so I will give the edge to them, but I like our chances to be honest.”
“This is going to be a really fun matchup for us,” Ebrahim said. “He’s got a really good running back. It’s going to be a challenge this weekend. I think we got some pretty good D linemen who are going to be stepping up. So we’ll see. I think when you put East and La Follette on the same field, you can never really predict what’s going to happen.”