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CBA hopes injuries doesn't derail title run

In one memorable October evening, the Christian Brothers Academy football team's stature as Section III's most envied target came to a sudden halt.

The Brothers' 43-35 defeat to Fayetteville-Manlius in the opening round of the 2006 Class AA playoffs marked the first time since 1994 that the team had not at least reached the sectional semifinals, an astonishing run.

Other numbers are even more astonishing -- like a 69-1 regular-season record in the last 10 years and eight sectional titles scattered over four different classes as Section III kept moving CBA up the ladder to face larger schools.

Yet painful as the F-M loss was to absorb, head coach Joe Casamento said it might have, to some degree, liberated his team from the constant heat of maintaining its winning aura at all times, which can take some of the joy out of the game.

"There's a bit less pressure not being the (main) target," he said. "Now we can say, 'let's go out and have some fun playing football'."

Make no mistake, though. CBA has plenty of challenges to deal with in 2007, with Mike Paulus now at the University of North Carolina and other stars, like Jovan Miller, Kris Estabrook and Leon Saddler also out of the picture. Of the 39 players on the roster, 10 are either sophomores or freshmen.

What makes the situation even tougher is that the Brothers are banged up. Five possible starters, three of them on the offensive line, could miss time due to injuries, and even the new quarterback is still in recovery mode.

Dan Sisto is the first player not named Paulus to step under center at CBA since 2000. And he's still recuperating from a shoulder injury suffered in the '06 season that limited him to duty at cornerback.

Injured or not, Casamento said Sisto is more likely to run out of the pocket, in the style of Greg Paulus, to keep CBA's vaunted spread offense on the move. He'll also tutor sophomore Jared DePalma and freshman Tyler Hamblin, both of whom have lots of promise and will battle for the job once Sisto graduates.

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