Jesuit answered the skeptics in a big way this afternoon at Rio Americano High School in its season debut: Power football is in, finesse out under new coach Marlon Blanton, the De La Salle of Concord veer offense disciple.
Ben Parietti rushed for three touchdowns; Austin Gates caught two touchdown passes; and Andrew Hoy kicked a 51-yard field goal as the No. 17 Marauders beat their down-the-block neighbors 45-7 in front of a spill-over crowd.
The Marauders had 11 players rush 35 times for 239 yards while starting quarterback Tom Sperbeck and reserve Jason Elenberger threw only nine passes, combining to complete four for 64 yards.
Jesuit's defense was just as dominant, forcing four sacks, three turnovers (interceptions by Tyler Marshall and Kent Presson and a fumble recovery by Matt Ternan) and tackling Raiders' rushers behind the line of scrimmage eight times.
Even some gutsy play by Rio Americano quarterback Mark Lyon (16 for 24, 178 yards and one touchdown and 11 carries for 28 yards) couldn't put a dent in the Marauders' fun or prevent the Raiders from falling to 0-2.
"We've been together only 2 1/2 to three months, so we're still in the learning phase," said Blanton, who played and coached at De La Salle under legendary Bob Ladouceur. "But I can't complain when you score almost every series and fumble one time. Usually with this system, I'm used to seeing a lot of miscues early. Not bad for a first game."
Blanton was quickly hired in the spring after longtime coach Dan Carmazzi, who molded a number of outstanding quarterbacks in winning 230 games through the years, left to return to Christian Brothers, his alma mater. He is now an assistant coach for the Falcons.
"We were a little hesitant at first with the sudden change," said 6-foot-3, 285-pound senior tackle Garrett Strohmaier. "But as soon as we met Coach Blanton and the other coaches, we knew that this was the way to go. Everyone on the team has bought into the system."
Sperbeck and Strohmaier say they're better conditioned and practices are more intense and focused.
Strohmaier also contends the physically demanding veer better fits his aggressive nature.
"It's great for me as a lineman because I get to show my quickness and athleticism," he said.
As quarterback, Sperbeck has had to make the biggest adjustment and, perhaps, the largest sacrifice.
He averaged 189 total yards a game running the spread for last season's 5-6 Jesuit team.
On Saturday he was 3 for 6 for 55 yards and rushed twice for two yards, though the Marauders didn't need to air it out much after jumping to a quick 14-0 first-quarter lead.
"The offense is looking great," Sperbeck said. "It's coming along the way we expected. I think we're making a great transition."
The 6-foot, 175-pound Sperbeck, one of the team's top athletes, also said he played more at free safety against Rio Americano than he did on defense all of last year.
"I love playing defense - I love hitting," Sperbeck said.
Blanton is appreciative of the players' open-mindedness, especially knowing that "The Journey" - the theme for his team - only gets more challenging in the weeks ahead.
Still ahead is a sure-to-be-even-more-emotional Holy Bowl against Christian Brothers Sept. 15; a nonleague game against No. 7 Franklin Sept. 21; then league play against No. 4 Pleasant Grove, No. 10 Folsom and No. 11 Oak Ridge.
"I want to thank the players for receiving us and being so open in this short period of time," Blanton said. "We've been riding the up-and-down wave, but they've been hanging in there with us."