CBA football grows up amid rare struggles

When it comes to Christian Brothers Academy's football team, winning -- and winning a lot -- is part of the plan.

For a decade, that winning plan included a long string of undefeated regular seasons, Section III championships at four different class levels, and a state Class AA title in 2004.

All this history and all this recent success, helped make the 2007 season a shock for followers of the Brothers -- and a delight for its opponents.

CBA went 3-4 in the regular season, never recovering from the early-season injury to top quarterback Dan Sisto and missing the sectional AA playoffs outright. And though the Brothers did win both of its crossover games to finish 5-4, the damage had been rendered.

"Last year was a stunner," said head coach Joe Casamento. "That just doesn't happen to us. We know how to win, and we've done what it takes to get back there to the top."

Mainly, the Brothers' task in the off-season was to gain maturity. When it takes the field Saturday for its opener at Henninger, CBA will have 17 juniors on its roster, many of them having gone through a rough baptism in '07.

One thing the Brothers have in its favor is the rare luxury of having three different men capable of starting at quarterback.

When Sisto went out, Jared DePalma and Tyler Hamblin took snaps under center. Now DePalma, a junior, and Hamblin, a sophomore, have company on the depth chart thanks to Joey Battaglia, a talented passer up from the JV ranks. Any one of the three could start, and Casamento said it's likely at least two of them will get on the field before the season is over.

CBA takes particular pride in the wide receivers it has turned out, with three of them -- Lavar Lobdell, Bruce Williams and Marcus Sales -- sitting atop the Syracuse University football depth chart at this point, a rarity for any single school to pull off.

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