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CBA has new surface, same big dreams

At the very least, Christian Brothers Academy football games will have quite a different look when the team kicks off its 2009 season Friday against Auburn.

That stems from the new artificial surface installed at Alibrandi Stadium, which provides a stark contrast to the worn-out grass that, in years past, inevitably turned to mud in October due to all the use from CBA's football and soccer teams.

Maybe it was time for a switch. In last year's opening round of the Section III Class AA playoffs on the old grass, the Brothers saw three key players (Andy Phillips, Bryant Moore and Fajri Jackson) get knocked out with injures and lost a 27-26 overtime heartbreaker to Rome Free Academy.

So brought an abrupt end to what head coach Joe Casamento thought was a return to the top. CBA had gone 6-1 in the 2008 regular season, including a 21-0 shutout at Henninger -- the team that ended up winning the sectional title.

"We thought we were the best team in the section," Casamento said.

They might still be. Though some big names, like Phillips, Garrett Barnard and Tom Trasolini, have departed, CBA has lots of talent back and 48 players on the varsity roster, the largest number in Casamento's 11-year tenure.

And it doesn't hurt to practice on turf, either, for it gives the Brothers an ideal setting to work on its famed spread offense, led by two quarterbacks, Tyler Hamblin and Jared DePalma, with vast starting experience.

Hamblin started the first five games in '08 and, when he got hurt, DePalma took over. The plan is to have Hamblin start, though DePalma is certain to see action under center, too. Either of them could also line up at wide receiver, something Joe Casamento Jr., Greg Paulus and Mike Paulus never did in their CBA days.

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