By Phil Anastasia
The last time was third grade.
"I remember breaking away for a touchdown," Woodbury star Anthony Averett said of that long-ago football game. "He was the only one who could keep up with me."
Averett has run away from the competition for years. He will take his remarkable talent to the University of Alabama on a football scholarship.
But the kid who stayed with Averett on that youth-league field has kept pace through the years, too.
That would be Glassboro star Corey Clement, who will attend the University of Wisconsin on a football scholarship.
The football careers of these best friends who live around the corner from one another in Glassboro have advanced on parallel tracks.
On Saturday, they finally will collide.
"This is something we've always talked about," Averett said. "It's finally happening in our senior year."
Woodbury is 9-1 and the No. 2 seed in the South Jersey Group 1 tournament. Glassboro is 9-1 and the No. 3 seed.
The teams will clash for the right to advance to the Dec. 8 title game against the winner of Saturday's other semifinal between top-seeded Penns Grove and No. 5 Paulsboro.
"This is what we both have been waiting for," Clement said. "We're going to play the same way we've both played all year, with no holding back."
These guys have been best friends since fourth grade, when Averett walked into Bowe Elementary School in Glassboro and Clement said, "I know that kid."
Clement said they were "destined to be best friends." They recognized each other's talent even as third-graders, the last time they met on the football field.
They've been nearly inseparable for the last eight years, riding their bikes around the neighborhood, playing video games -- Averett said he rules in Madden NFL, while Clement claims the edge in Call of Duty, a war game -- and staying up all night on sleepovers.
Last weekend, Clement accompanied Averett on a visit to Alabama for the Crimson Tide's game against rival Auburn.
"It was a cool visit," Clement said.
In August, they talked about their dreams of a game in early December, in the state tournament, in a championship setting.
Through the years, they have imagined the scenario: Big crowd, bigger stakes, one last battle between the best of buddies and friendliest of foes.
But the both are fierce competitors, too.
"It's going to be a great game," Averett said. "This is what we've always talked about."
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.