Ailene Voisin

Christian Brothers, Dan Carmazzi back together and better than ever

Christian Brothers coach Dan Carmazzi says 'it's a season to remember'

After practice on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, Christian Brothers High School football coach Dan Carmazzi said the Falcons have been a fun program to coach since he returned to his alma mater several years ago. After losing its first two games, Christia
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After practice on Monday, Nov. 28, 2016, Christian Brothers High School football coach Dan Carmazzi said the Falcons have been a fun program to coach since he returned to his alma mater several years ago. After losing its first two games, Christia

Christian Brothers football coach Dan Carmazzi sat at his desk earlier this week, and while a student aide peered over his shoulder, gently pecked away at a laptop.

This was a major victory of sorts. He was creating files, typing notes, locating his assorted data. A month ago, the longtime high school coach was still attached to a flip phone. Thirty years ago? The last time the Falcons played for a Sac-Joaquin Section title?

Carmazzi was developing Jesuit into a powerhouse program in Carmichael. New UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins was the Falcons’ boisterous young coach. The Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl, Larry Bird captured his last NBA championship with the Boston Celtics, and in a real throwback given today’s political climate, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev brokered a thaw in the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

Some things haven’t changed, though. Carmazzi, 63, who returned to his alma mater as assistant athletic director before taking over the football team three seasons ago, remains a dual threat; he still teaches physical education and government classes and has no interest in giving up either his day job or his Friday night gig.

11 Consecutive victories by Christian Brothers after an 0-2 start

“I enjoy it too much,” he said. “Our government classes have been very lively lately, with the election and everything. Very good discussions. And the football in this region just keeps getting better and better, probably because of the population growth. I want to be part of that. And to be able to come back and get us in the second final is pretty gratifying. No one picked us to be here, especially after our 0-2 start.”

The Falcons, who play Oakdale at Lincoln High School in Stockton on Friday at 7 p.m., opened the season with losses to Manteca and rival Jesuit in the Holy Bowl before winning 11 consecutive games, including an impressive 29-0 rout of American Canyon last weekend in the Division III section semifinals. While the defense stiffened against an opponent that was averaging 50.7 points per game, quarterback Tyler Vander Waal rushed for three touchdowns, including a 65-yarder.

The 6-foot-4 senior, who has committed to Ball State, is the latest on a long list of high school quarterback standouts Carmazzi has mentored through the years, among them his son, Gio Carmazzi, who still holds most passing records at Hofstra, former NFL quarterbacks J.T. O’Sullivan and Ken O’Brien, and Logan Kilgore, currently with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL.

“Sometimes in the middle of games,” said Carmazzi, acknowledging his affinity for the pass, “my assistants will turn to me and yell, ‘Run the ball! Run the ball!’ 

The father of five grown children, including the three sons who played for him at Jesuit (Gio, Dominic, Matt), Carmazzi goes along good-naturedly when athletic director Dale Milton teases him about technology and accuses him and his assistants of being “dinosaurs.” Guilty as charged, says the coach, with a playful grin. The decor in his office is a testament to the transition – both from his decades at wealthy, bucolic Jesuit to Christian Brothers’ more modest 1950s-style Oak Park campus and its D-III status, as well as to the ongoing explosion in technology and social media.

The room itself is the size of a walk-in closet. Stacks of worn, black travel gear crowd the floor. Notepads occupy much of his desk, sharing space with an uneaten banana and a worn iPad, its frayed, leather-bound cover appearing to have been trounced by dozens of cleats.

Sometimes in the middle of games, my assistants will turn to me and yell, ‘Run the ball! Run the ball!’

Christian Brothers coach Dan Carmazzi, acknowledging his affinity for the pass

As he sits in his chair, dressed in a blue-dominant Falcons hoodie and sweat pants, a white CB baseball cap atop his close-cropped gray hair, the gentleman-coach gazes out the window and is afforded a clean shot of the football field and surrounding track. Because of recent rains, the turf is soggy. Pools of water form along the interior of the track. There are no stands or rooting sections; home games are played at Hughes Stadium.

But amid the excitement of Friday night’s section finale, none of that seems to matter. Carmazzi, who is trim and athletic, appears eager and invigorated. Teachers shout encouragement from the hallways. Workers in the administration office are bouncy with enthusiasm. Milton, who could pass for James Gandolfini’s surviving twin, notes that the school already features exceptional weight-training and conditioning facilities; momentum generated by the current playoff run can only help.

It starts again with Carmazzi, the onetime Falcons standout, the former Jesuit coaching icon. He changed schools and swapped job titles. But this is what he loves. Teaching students, coaching football. Reaching the section final in only his third year back at Christian Brothers means it was all worth the wait.

Ailene Voisin: 916-321-1208, @ailene_voisin

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