The History of the Silver Spring Saints
In the fall of 1951 a small group of St. Bernadette students, led by Rickey Pasquale, Bobby Gibson, Jack Randolph and Mike Yaebauer, organized a sandlot football team. We went to a St. Michael team practice and challenged them to a scrimmage. The following week , twelve of us from St. B's hopped on a Capital Transit Bus, paid our nickel fare and headed for downtown Silver Spring's Nolte Field to play our first and only scrimmage game. As we walked onto the field, we saw St. Michael's entering from the opposite side with thirty-three players, decked out in brand new gold uniforms with blue numbers, and a half dozen coaches. Our team didn't have a complete uniform between us. We scrimmaged for about an hour where we proceeded to get our tails royally whipped by the powerhouse of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). That St. Michael's team would go on to win the next two CYO championships. As we left the field we noticed that we had a single spectator on our sideline, Father Charles Davis, Moderator of Boys Activities at our school. The following season, Father Davis entered St. Bernadette into the CYO Football League. Saints Football was born.
In the fall of 1952, our inaugural season, we had only thirteen players. Our coach was a recent Gonzaga High School graduate named Art Cessil and his assistant was Frank Colt. Coach Cessil brought the Gonzaga playbook and taught us the Single Wing offense. We won only one game that first year, but we were a very small and inexperienced team playing in the only division the CYO had - 130 lb. Two months after the season, Art Cessil died of Leukemia. He was nineteen years old.
The next season was the same as the first, we only won a single game. We were still a young (mostly seventh graders), inexperienced football team. After the season, our new coach, Frank Govan, his brother Don, and Frank Colt called a team meeting. They introduced us to Andy Farkas, whose son Mickey was on our team. Andy Farkas was the Washington Redskins' starting fullback from their first season in Washington, 1937 to his retirement in 1944. He volunteered to hold a team practice every Wednesday during the off-season in the back yard of the Rectory. He and the Govan brothers taught us the basic fundamentals of football along with physical conditioning.
In the fall of 1954, St. Bernadette's fielded the biggest team in the CYO, averaging 130 lbs. across the line and in the backfield. The only exception was little Willy Connor, a Wingback that weighed 75lbs. soaking wet. We finished the season with a perfect 7-0 record and met Blessed Sacrament in the CYO championship. It was the preliminary game for the City Championship between St. Johns and Gonzaga at old Griffith Stadium. As we entered the stadium, we noticed that the Blessed Sacrament fans in the upper deck had hung a banner that read "St Bernadette's, who are you and where are you from?" That banner ignited a fire in our bellies to show them exactly who we were. Led by star running back Paul Ciatti, we prevailed in a hard fought contest, 13-0.
That was the beginning of what has become one of the Washington Metropolitan Areas oldest and proudest youth football organizations.
John Buonassisi and Michael Hartman joined the coaching staff in 1989 and 1990 respectively. Major changes would take place in the Nineties, but not before the Saints 85lb and 110lb. teams would make back- to- back appearances in the championship. With Rine, Diver, Godbout and McCartin coaching the 85's and Buonassisi, Hartman, Tim Leahy and Francis Bundukamara coaching the 110's, the Saints swept the CYO championship games in 1993. Both teams returned to the championship in 1994, but came up short. The CYO folded its football program after that season so the Saints merged with St. John the Baptist and joined the Capital Beltway League as "The Silver Spring Saints." The level of competition in the Beltway League was, by then, superior to that of the CYO. The first few years were especially difficult as the program had to suffer through lopsided losses while building into a Beltway-sized organization. The "growing pains" finally subsided when Buonassisi, Hartman and Leahy led the 95lb. team to the CBL Championship in 1998. More importantly, the program has prepared numerous young men for the next level - high school.
The Saints are very excited and very proud to be celebrating 57 seasons of football this year. We are very grateful to those who kept the program alive for all these years. It is important for us to convey to our predecessors that we are dedicated to maintaining the legacy of St. Bernadette and CYO football. We love to win as much as anyone, but we refuse to compromise the CYO philosophy for the sake of victories. Our victories come after the players leave our program and go on to high school and college. There they can continue to use football's lessons to grow mentally, physically and socially.