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By: Jim McCUE    The waiting is the hardest part. That is true for the players, coaches, students, alumni, administration, and fans of Jesuit...

By: Jim McCUE

   The waiting is the hardest part. That is true for the players, coaches, students, alumni, administration, and fans of Jesuit and Christian Brothers high schools.

   Each year, the buildup to the Holy Bowl football game, which determines bragging rights between the two largest Catholic high schools in Sacramento, seems to grow. Emotions and school spirit run high during the week before the Saturday night showcase, played under the lights of Hughes Stadium on the Sacramento City College campus.

   “It is a special week for the schools,” Jesuit athletic director Chris Fahey said. “It rekindles the spirit of why you are at the school, why you went there, or why you are sending your kids there.”

   “It is just a lot of fun to see the school spirit and pride shared by generations.”

   Jesuit and Christian Brothers, which are separated by less than 10 miles, hold spirit competitions and rallies during the week before the big game. But the competition between the two parochial schools begins well before game week.

   The high schools battle each other to attract students and athletes from the Catholic elementary and middle schools for years before any of those kids will have the opportunity to don their colors in the Holy Bowl.

   “We started coming here when our kids were in elementary school,” said Christian Brothers supporter Ross Peabody, who does not have a player on the Falcons’ roster this year. “Most of the kids and families know each other from school or sports or the neighborhood before they pick a side. It’s very competitive, but the Holy Bowl is a great community event.”

   Holy Bowl XLIII Most Valuable Player, Ben Parietti, is among the many legacy players from families with multiple generations and/or multiple siblings who have participated in the rivalry.

   No person is more legendary or more experienced with the Holy Bowl than Dan Carmazzi. The 2013 game was the 40th of which the Christian Brothers athletic director has taken part. The CBS grad played in the first two Holy Bowls before adding games as an assistant coach for his alma mater and then for rival Jesuit. Carmazzi was the Marauders’ head coach for more than 30 years, moving back to Christian Brothers in 2012 to lead the Falcons’ athletics department. He even coached all three of his sons””Gio, Matt, and Dominic””at Jesuit, providing him with the most unique and accomplished perspective on the game.

   “I have been very fortunate to be a part of the Holy Bowl for so many years,” he said. “My experience (with the rivalry) has run the gamut, but you can’t beat the feeling as a player. I will never forget those first two years.”

   Fittingly, the schools split the first two years with Christian Brothers winning the inaugural contest 20-13 in 1969 before Jesuit evened things up with an 8-7 victory. That was well before any of this year’s players were born, but the history is cherished and shared by the scores of alumni that flock to Sacramento to witness another Holy Bowl.

   “This is the one game per year where out-of-town alums come back,” Fahey said. “The game is becoming more of a spectacle and it creates almost a college football atmosphere.”

   Tailgating is one aspect of the college football feel. Supporters from Christian Brothers arrived on the Sac City College campus at 4:30 a.m. on game day this year to secure prime real estate in the parking lot to set up tents for serving game day fare to alumni, students, and other Falcons supporters.

   Chad Wilbourn, whose son Cole is a junior linebacker for Jesuit, moved to Sacramento from Nebraska just two years ago. He has been impressed with the atmosphere of the Holy Bowl, which is high praise from a fan familiar with the football environment and ambiance of Cornhusker country in Lincoln. As a bonus, Wilbourn did not have to buy new red game day attire, either.

   Despite the intensity of the rivalry, the two sides place a large emphasis on sportsmanship and respect.

   “There is great competition and intensity involved with the Holy Bowl,” Carmazzi said, “but there is also a great deal of respect between the schools.

   “(The game) used to be just for bragging rights as you drove along Fair Oaks Boulevard, but it has gotten much bigger than that.”

   Holy Bowl XLIII, which was won by Jesuit 52-28, exceeded the expectations of many with a high-scoring duel and several record performances that created new legends and heroes for the next generation of Marauders and Falcons.

   After the final seconds ticked off the clock and the lights were finally turned off at Hughes Stadium, another Holy Bowl came to a close.

   So, now the waiting begins again, especially for Christian Brothers, who must endure a year of Jesuit bragging rights before the Falcons get another shot.

Below check out some awesome photos taken by James K. Leash…

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