Paul Kitagaki Jr. pkitagaki@sacbee.com Jesuit players warm up before practice Monday. The Marauders hold a 26-14-2 edge over Christian Brothers in the Holy Bowl, which is expected to draw 16,000 fans.

Preps Plus: Rivals Jesuit, Christian Brothers seek return to glory

Published: Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013 - 5:45 pm

The sounds of impact drills and concrete grinders at Christian Brothers and the earth-moving abilities of towering backhoes at Jesuit are emblematic of the goals of both schools' football programs.

For both storied parochial schools, returning to past football glory remains a work in progress, though there's no sense of obsession.

Coaches and players at both schools talk about the overall campus experience, including the buildup for Saturday's Holy Bowl XLIII. To these schools – and the 16,000 expected to pack Hughes Stadium – this game is like a championship.

And there's a lot of pressure for No. 18 Jesuit (2-0) and No. 19 CBS (3-0) to put on a good show and win bragging rights for another year.

"Both schools want to win, and the construction is symbolic of our teams, of building and getting better," Jesuit senior tight end Austin Gates said. "There's a lot of tradition for both, and for the Holy Bowl."

Christian Brothers, which opened in 1876, has been housed on Martin Luther King Boulevard since 1956. The school began playing football in 1917, fielded its first good team in 1926 (going 6-1-1) and rose to power in the late 1960s and early '70s.

CBS was the first area team to have spring football drills, in 1969, and the first to institute strength and conditioning programs, in 1970, both under coach Dick Sperbeck, who left following the 1976 season.

The Falcons' greatest teams arguably were the 13-1 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions of 1981 and 1983. But CBS hasn't won a playoff game since 1986. It went 1-9 in 2011, then won six games and reached the Division III playoffs last season.

The campus underwent a transformation when it went coed in 1990, and it recently added a new field house. The performing arts building that is nearing completion is just behind the baseball diamond.

Jesuit, celebrating its 50th year, has a sparkling campus in Carmichael that includes new coaches' offices, a weight room and other buildings. The school this week officially broke ground on a $12 million chapel, with some players hustling over from practice to Tuesday's ceremony.

Jesuit won its first league football championship in 1968, struggled in the 1980s while dominating in other sports, then rose to prominence under coach Dan Carmazzi, who played quarterback for CBS in the first two Holy Bowls in 1969 and '70 and now coaches at his alma mater.

Jesuit's first playoff team was in 1988, its first dominant team in 1993. The Marauders won section Division I titles in 1995 and 2002, but their last playoff victory was in 2004.

Carmazzi, the Marauders' coach from 1980 to 2011, said CBS and Jesuit can be football powers again, and at the same time.

"I think so," said Carmazzi, the CBS athletic director. "It takes time."

The coaches

George Petrissans is in his 12th year at CBS, teaching world history, and his third season as head coach. He grew up in Los Banos and started on the defensive line at Saint Mary's for three seasons. He gave college coaching a shot at San Jose State, Cal and Saint Mary's but wasn't enamored with the vagabond nature of the job.

"I see myself doing this for a long time," Petrissans, 40, said. "I've got a great wife and son, and I've got no hobbies other than football. It is literally family and football."

Petrissans said his players met after the team went 1-9 in his debut season and vowed to work harder, to get better. He said he's been "amazed with their great leadership."

CBS' commitment to football included hiring Carmazzi, with Petrissans embracing him as "a great coach." And two defensive coaches are John Wiley and Lou Patrone, both former Sacramento State assistant coaches.

Last season, the Falcons returned to Hughes Stadium for home games after years of Saturday games on a campus that had no lights – and sometimes not much atmosphere, either.

"Very impressive coach," Patrone said of Petrissans. "This team last year wanted to get back to respectability, and we have a good team this year. There's been a lot of resiliency."

At Jesuit, coach Marlon Blanton is in his second season. He grew up in what he calls a chaotic, dangerous setting in Antioch. He barely knew his father, and his mother and grandmother struggled with addictions. A youth coach steered Blanton to De La Salle, the nationally ranked football program in Concord, a move Blanton later said "saved me."

It was at De La Salle, while playing running back in the late 1980s, that Blanton got the itch to coach. After a knee injury ended his playing career at Saint Mary's, he coached at De La Salle and headed a championship program at St. Patrick's in Vallejo. He brought the De La Salle run-heavy veer offense to Jesuit.

"I hit the ground running here and haven't stopped running since," said Blanton, who teaches social studies and physical education at Jesuit. "There's so much work to do. I like these kids, but I don't know where we are as a program. It's hard to gauge."

Assistant coach Ross Evans, in his 37th year at Jesuit, likes what he sees in Blanton.

"I'm very impressed," Evans said. "He's everything you want in a coach: high morals, a good vision. We're heading in the right direction. Sometimes we all want it faster than we should expect."

The players

CBS has fast running back Mason Stahley, rising college prospects Hayden Jones (tight end) and Logan Snyder (linebacker) and 6-foot-3, 195-pound junior quarterback Chris Guillen, a Swedish foreign exchange student.

Guillen's father, Tyson, a Land Park native who coached football in Sweden, wanted his son to play football in America.

"A great story, a tremendous player who will be a Division I quarterback," Petrissans said.

Jesuit's counterpart, senior Jason Elenberger, embraces the legacy of quarterback at his school so much that he can rattle off the names of former stars and says it's "an honor to play here."

The Marauders also have junior lineman Kori Collons, the son of former Jesuit star and NFL lineman Ferric Collons, and senior tight end Malcolm Harvey, who said sports have battered him so much he has scars as proof.

"I've had two or three concussions, wrists, ankles," said Harvey, who also plays rugby. "It takes a toll, but I can't be without sports. It's part of what makes for a great brotherhood at a school like this."

And the Holy Bowl?

Said Harvey: "Losing wouldn't be tragic, but if we played poorly, then that'd really be terrible."

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD, check out his PrepsPlus Insider every Monday at blogs.sacbee.com/preps and listen to his "Extra Point" every Wednesday on ESPN Radio 1320.

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