High School Sports

The O’Bryan brothers, playing hockey for Colony and Palmer High, take rivalry to the next level

The rivalry between the Colony and Palmer high school football teams on the gridiron is one of the fiercest in the state and culminates each fall in their annual regular season matchup. However, there hasn’t normally been much of a rivalry between their two hockey programs until this year.

Brothers Jamon and Keagon O’Bryan are the starting goalies for the two teams and have brought their sibling rivalry to the varsity level.

“This year there have been much higher stakes because of my brother and I,” said Jamon, who is a senior at Colony. “I think we’re kind of starting a new rivalry.”

Keagon is a sophomore and chose to attend Palmer because it’s one of only two schools in the state with the International Baccalaureate, the other being West Anchorage High.

“I liked that program, and there was a better chance for me to play varsity at Palmer as well,” he said. “I took the chance to go there, meet new people and start fresh friendships. It has ended up going well.”

A lot of Keagon’s friends were going to attend Palmer as well, and when he pleaded his case to his parents, it didn’t take much convincing.

“As long as Jamon had his license and could help get you there and get you back home after school, we’ll see what we can do to make it happen,” said their mother, Jamette O’Bryan, repeating her words to Keagon. “Palmer High and Colony are so close. They’re like a mile and a half apart, if that.”


Their teams have faced off with each other three times this season. The first was a season-opening win for the Knights and the second was during a tournament down in Kenai. That went into overtime but still resulted in a Colony victory.

The third took place on Tuesday night in the Valley and saw Keagon and the Moose finally get over the hump with a 6-3 victory over the Knights.

“It brings a lot of joy to see them on the ice together,” Jamette said. “It was bittersweet knowing that it would probably be the last time they would be opponents in their high school careers.”

She said that it’s stressful anytime one of them is in the net. So when both of them are in the net at the same time on the same sheet of ice, “that’s highly stressful.”

Even when they’re not officially on-ice opponents, they still try to compete against each other by seeing who can produce the best performance each week.

“One of the big deals for me is outplaying my brother, especially with this being his last year of high school,” Keagon said. “I just want to show him who is boss, but it doesn’t really go my way.”

While they aren’t slated to face each other again during the regular season, there’s a chance that the Knights and Moose could cross paths again in the postseason. Since Palmer is a Division II team, they’d have to win their state tournament in order to earn an at-large bid to the Division I tournament the following weekend.

“I think playing each other in the playoffs would be fun but kind of scary because I don’t want to lose to my little brother,” Jamon said.

They primarily play hockey but dabbled with playing soccer last year for their respective schools. Jamon came through unscathed, but Keagon suffered a broken leg, which set him back about four or five months when it came to his hockey training.

Although they play on opposing teams during the high school season, they train together year-round attending camps and traveling with Valley Thunder, which is an AA travel team with different age groups.

“It’s pretty fun watching my brother play and not have to worry about having better stats than him because we’re playing on the same team but in different leagues,” Keagon said.

They get to be together half-time during the travel competitive season, but sometimes one of them will have a game in one state with their age group, and the other will be playing in a different state with another one.

“I’ll be in New York state with mom, and (Keagon) will be in Denver, Colorado, with my dad, and the only way we can communicate is by phone,” Jamon said. “We’ll watch each other’s games online because there are a lot of other kids on our team that have other brothers on the other team.”

At times, they are each other’s biggest supporters while simultaneously being their harshest critics.

“Even in games against one another, we still are like, ‘Hey, you got to do this better or talk more,’” Keagon said. “It’s all critiquing to make each other better.”

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Long-term goals with family in mind

Early on, Keagon played multiple positions and was torn about which one he preferred. When he was about 11 or 12, his parents told him he had to choose between the two because having two sets of gear costs twice as much.


“He chose to be a goalie, and at the time, I was like, ‘What am I going to do with two goalies?’” Jamette said. “And they’re opposites, so they hold their sticks in opposite hands. ... So there is very little gear that can be passed down.”

The O’Bryan brothers are extremely grateful that their parents have sacrificed time and resources to help them pursue their dreams.

“Our parents have been the most supportive out of anybody,” Jamon said. “Having them around has been way more than we could ever ask for.”

They both would love to play professionally, but their more immediate aspirations are to play junior league hockey and hopefully college after that.

While her sons hope to repay all their sacrifices by going pro someday, Jamette said she and her husband would be more than elated if it resulted in them earning college scholarships.

“It would be amazing,” she said. “I hope they keep working towards that, and I feel like they have the drive and mindset to make it happen — and I will be behind them the whole way.”

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.