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  • Carl Costas / Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

    Rio Linda head coach Mike Morris leads a team practice Wednesday, December 1, 2004.

  • Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

    Roseville High School football head coach Larry Cunha, center, addresses his players on the bench during their game against Rio Linda High School at Roseville HS in Roseville on Friday September 7, 2007.

  • Andy Alfaro / Special to The Bee

    Andy Alfaro Special to The Bee Grant football coach Mike Alberghini's comforting presence is needed now more than ever.

  • Andy Alfaro / Special to The Bee

    Andy Alfaro Special to The Bee Grant coach Mike Alberghini, 65, with quarterback Isaiah Rios last month, has no plans to retire.

  • Joe Davidson

Hometown Report: Prep football coaches Alberghini, Cunha, Morris define staying power

Published: Monday, Aug. 26, 2013 - 5:53 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Sep. 4, 2013 - 8:41 am

The old coaches wound up at the back table, drawn together with equal parts recognition and respect.

Ninety-two combined years of coaching high school football binds Mike Alberghini, Larry Cunha and Mike Morris. They spoke about their teams and goals Sunday at the 11th National Football Foundation Coaches Kickoff brunch at the Carmichael Elks Club, earning the audience's admiration.

Alberghini has been at Grant for 44 years, the past 23 as head coach. Morris has been the head coach at Rio Linda for 23 years. Cunha has coached at Roseville for 25 years, the past 22 as the head man.

Alberghini and Morris are the region's longest-tenured coaches at the same school. In an era when coaches come and go because the grind wins out, such staying power is remarkable.

"I'm not sure if we're the oldest table today, but we're the most continuous group," Morris said. "We've been at this a very long time."

Alberghini is a retired physical education teacher, but he remains a mainstay on Grant's campus. With his meager stipend, he's the best coaching bargain around.

"We as a group have a unique, great situation to do what we do as coaches," Alberghini said. "We're in the best years of our lives when we get to work with the youth of America."

Cunha is a PE instructor who demands accountability and effort in class and on the field. He remains close to Tedy Bruschi, who went from the trenches at Roseville to All-American at Arizona to three Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots.

"I was 28 when I got this job, and now I feel like 70," Cunha joked. "This is the only place I'll be. I'm very proud to have been at one school all this time."

Early in Morris' days as a football coach and world history teacher at Rio Linda, he lectured students who bemoaned their town and school. In the early 1990s, Rio Linda was regularly lampooned by national radio host Rush Limbaugh while Morris argued: "What's wrong with you? Take pride here."

Largely because of coaching stability, Grant, Roseville and Rio Linda provide more than a football game on Friday nights. Think of a festival. Still, for all of their achievements - the trio have combined to coach 44 playoff teams with 31 league and/or Sac-Joaquin Section championships - the challenges are many.

Alberghini coached 22 consecutive playoff teams, a section record, before experiencing his first losing season in 2012 at 5-6. It was his most trying campaign amid injuries and off-field tragedies. Now he fields one of his youngest and potentially most promising teams.

Cunha went 2-8 last season after playoff runs in 2008, '10 and '11. Fourteen starters return, none more impressive than 6-foot-8, 290-pound lineman Kolton Miller, Roseville's top recruit since Bruschi.

Coming off an 8-3 playoff season, Morris may have his finest team. Morris, though, is wary, especially with Roseville looming Sept. 6.

"We'll be fine if we keep our heads screwed on straight, but in a scrimmage (Saturday) night, (they) weren't screwed on straight," he said.

Each mentor has coached or worked with his son, listing it as a career highlight. Rob Alberghini is a longtime assistant to his father, joking last fall: "It's an honor to get chewed out by dad on the headphones."

Cunha delighted in coaching son Zac, the Tigers' quarterback in 2011. Cunha attended six of Zac's games last season as his son started for Minot State in North Dakota. Larry will watch Zac play at least six times this fall.

Morris has his son back as a standout center. At 6-4, 285 pounds, Matthew "eats everything in the house.

"He's going to Humboldt State because of the good ice cream in the cafeteria," Morris said. "That's the truth."

Follow on Joe Davidson @SacBee_JoeD and listen to his "Extra Point" every Wednesday on ESPN1320.net

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