If Micah and Marcus Darnell ever need a breather from the action on the football field, or a reminder of the support they have off it, all they have to do is look to the sideline.
That’s where they’ll see their father, Clements High School head coach Bobby Darnell, as well as gaggle of a dozen or more family members, encouraging and cheering them on. It’s been a constant through the twin brothers’ years of being coached by their father, including the last two seasons on Clements’ varsity team.
And it’s an experience they’ll forever relish as they come down the home stretch of their senior seasons hoping to help Clements make the UIL playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Rangers started 4-0 this season before losing 56-20 against a Ridge Point team that has become a regional power.
As the starting quarterback, Micah Darnell had thrown six touchdown passes against three interceptions through the first five games while adding two rushing touchdowns for an offense averaging more than 34 points per game.
Marcus Darnell, meanwhile, was the team’s second-leading receiver and has two touchdown catches, including one on Saturday night.
Having the support of close family and friends at nearly every game, as well as their father roaming the sidelines every week, is a support system both brothers said is instrumental to their play on the field.
“I can’t even describe how much it helps,” Marcus Darnell said. “Every game, we’ll hear our mom – the loudest voice in the stands – cheering us on. Our sister is always up there leading the student section. I’ll look up and see all of our little cousins waving at me or yelling for me, too.”
The bond between player and coach is always a unique one, even more so when they are their own flesh and blood. Bobby Darnell is in his 17th year of coaching overall and his sixth year as the Rangers’ head coach – but said the last two have been the most special.
“It might be a job and a career choice for me, but it’s still more about having a front row seat to my children’s high school career and athletic career,” he said. “That’s really what I try to focus on.”
His sons echoed the sentiment.
“He’s always there to make sure we keep our heads up, stay motivated and stay focused on the goal,” Micah Darnell said.
Both twins said they were always around football growing up as their father’s coaching career began about six months after they were born, and he has had a hand in just about every athletic season in the boys’ lives.
“I don’t remember a start to loving football – it’s always just been a part of us,” Marcus Darnell said. “We’ve always been a football family.”
Micah Darnell said having that family not only on the sidelines but in life, has been among the most rewarding aspects.
“This is really cool," he said. "With it being senior year it’s kind of sad because we’re coming to the end of playing for him. But it’s been really special, and it’s a really cool feeling playing with your dad as the head coach. I always wonder how much different our experience would have been if our head coach hadn’t been our dad.”
The Clements clan had become entrenched in the area long before Micah and Marcus became varsity football players. But whether it was at an apartment in Sugar Land’s New Territory – Bobby Darnell’s first home in the area – or their current home just down the street from the high school, one thing has never changed according to the Darnell football trio.
At some point there needs to be time away from the film study, scouring the playbook and scouting opposing defenses. And the Darnell trio knows that without their support system, none of what they are doing right now is possible. So, when there is down time away from the field or practice is over, Bobby Darnell said the family tries to have dinner together most every night, often with a home-cooked meal by his wife Carly, his daughter Maddox or one of his sons.
“It truly is faith, family and football that we try to go by,” Bobby said. “It’s really about connecting as often as possible.”
The Darnells are a churchgoing family, often attending River Pointe Church in Richmond or St. Laurence Catholic Church in Sugar Land – which is also where Bobby Darnell and Carly were married and where Micah, Marcus and Maddox were baptized.
Additionally, the family likes to take vacations with all 23-28 family members on all sides, including a weeklong Disney Cruise and subsequent trip to Disney World that Micah said his grandparents surprised the family with in 2019.
“We’re always making jokes, being goofy and everything … and we went through all of Disney World in, like, three days,” Micah Darnell said. “A lot of families, when they’re together for that long, they might get annoyed with each other. But you don’t really see that with us – we’re always joking around and having a good time.”
Marcus Darnell pointed to the family’s Christmas tradition as more evidence of its bond. Each year, he said much of the family comes to the Darnells’ house. The following day, everyone gathers at their grandparents’ house for laughs, gift opening and more before spending the night.
“It’s like a big Christmas party,” he said. “… It just shows our family just loves being around each other and being there for each other. We never get tired of each other – it’s a great environment to be around, having that support 24/7 in all that we do.”
On the football field, the father and son trio are at the forefront of what could potentially be a history-making season for the Rangers. The team's 4-0 start was its first since 2009.
The eight wins between last season and early this campaign are more than any of the three previous graduating classes had ever accumulated in a two-year stretch, Bobby Darnell said – and his sons have been at the forefront. All three used the same word, "special," to describe the experience.
“It’s a joy to be able to see them anytime I want and for them to visually see the fruits of their labor,” Bobby said. “We always talk about hard work paying off, and for them to be able to be the class that is seeing it pay off for them is phenomenal. … That’s showing them there is a process to do things. If you go about it the right way, the results can be really fantastic.”
“It’s always been an advantage for us, because the chemistry is already there,” Marcus said. “It’s having a teammate 24/7 that you understand and you’re always on the same page with.”
“Our whole family is pretty much always around for each other," Marcus Darnell said. "We make it out to everyone else’s events – all of our little cousins are in different sports, so we try to go out and support them, because they’re always in the stands supporting us. … They’re all watching everything that Micah and I do. We’re the oldest of the group, so I feel like they look up to us, and it’s our job to make sure we help mold them to be great human beings when they grow up.”
Whatever they do and however their final season together ends, their father is soaking up every moment.
“It’s been fantastic and a unique situation,” Bobby said. “And I’ve loved every single second of it.”