MARYVILLE, Mo — When Maryville senior Tyler Houchin announced his verbal commitment to play football at Northwest Missouri State in a tweet Nov. 5, he included a flashback picture.

The photo displayed Houchin, his little brother Trey and fellow Northwest commit Eli Dowis at the center of Mel Tjeerdsma Field in 2010. Little did Dowis and Houchin know a similar image would be taken eight years later on a visit.

This one was used by Dowis, who announced his commitment to Northwest on Twitter Dec. 3. Both of the shots represent a friendship built around a vision.

“This is one of the things you dream about when you’re young,” Dowis said. “Looking at those college football players when you’re eight, nine, 10 years old, you’re just like ‘one day that’s going to be me.’ For me and Tyler, we were lucky enough to make that dream come true.”

The duo inked their commitments to the Bearcats on Wednesday in the Maryville High School Gymnasium.

For both, the decision was about staying close to home while being a part of a team known for its winning culture.

“Eli and I really wanted to go to Northwest for a long time,” Houchin said. “Just to go together, and throw up the ‘townie t’ is really big for us.”

Dowis and Houchin have been friends since at least kindergarten. As Spoofhounds, the duo created havoc in the backfield as anchors to the Spoofhounds’ wing-T offense in 2017 and 2018. Both also had roles on defense.

Through their four years at Maryville, they helped coach Matt Webb’s team to a 51-6 record, including two state championship game appearances.

“For these guys, to play football in their hometown their entire career is something pretty special,” Webb said. “Obviously the success that Northwest Missouri State has, as a high school football coach, that’s something that I’m extremely happy about.”

Northwest coach Rich Wright and his staff seek out athletes who are familiar with family and tradition. This made this decision to target the two signees from Maryville.

According to Northwest’s signing day press release, Dowis is slated to be a wide receiver while Houchin is listed as a running back.

“I think sometimes people in town take those kids for granted and I don’t,” Northwest coach Rich Wright said. “I recruited those kids the same way I would’ve recruited anyone else in our football program. It’s not a God given right to get kids from Maryville, Missouri.”

In his signing day press conference, Wright compared Dowis to former Northwest wide receiver Jake Soy (2007-2010). A native of Durant, Iowa, Soy’s name tops the Northwest record books in career touchdown receptions (45).

Soy and Dowis share the commonality of having successful high school careers on the both the gridiron and hardwood. Having seen Dowis play both sports helped Wright develop the conclusion.

“(Dowis) can play above the rim and he’s so smooth but yet he can line up in the backfield and run the ball and Jake Soy did that,” Wright said. “He can line up and play quarterback, he can hop over and play on the defensive side. The kid is just a really good naturally athlete.”

The Bearcats are excited about Houchin due to his size and ability to effectively communicate with teammates. Wright witnessed these qualities first hand last summer at Northwest’s team camp.

“For Tyler, it’s his leadership skills,” Wright said. “Just watching the way he handles his teammates and other people. Watching the way he conducted himself during camp. Listening to him talk a little bit and understanding the game of football. I was really impressed by that.”

Dowis and Houchin join six Maryville athletes on Northwest’s roster. The list is compiled of senior safety Trent Nally, senior running back Body McMahon, junior defensive tackle Dustin Piper, sophomore offensive lineman Jake White, sophomore defensive end Tucker Tripp, and sophomore Elijah Green.

The pipeline of Spoofhounds alumni helped Dowis and Houchin realize staying home isn’t too bad after all.

“It’s pretty much what I’ve known my whole life,” Dowis said. “It makes it hard to try and go anywhere else. I definitely am happy with my decision to stay for four or five more years playing.”

Joe Andrews can be reached