High School Football: Titles on line for Bush brothers

SportsFootballCollege SportsCalifornia Interscholastic FederationNCAAAngel Stadium of AnaheimJohn Griffin

Susan Bush must hold back tears when she talks about the football season. She becomes emotional when discussing how meaningful this week is for her family and her sons, Sam and Peter.

"They have worked so hard for so many months," Susan says, her tone shaking as she sits in the living room of her Eastbluff neighborhood home in Newport Beach.

Her sons sit close by and her husband, Blaine, does too. They look at her with love.

"I get choked up," she says softly. "I don't know if I ever had that drive when I was that age."

Susan has seen the rewards from the work. She describes her sons' football experience as surreal. Saturday will certainly be special for the Bush family.

Sam, a junior left tackle for the Mater Dei High football team, will play for the Monarchs when they face Long Beach Poly in the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division championship game at 7:30 p.m.

Peter, a freshman quarterback who was called up to the Corona del Mar varsity team, will be with the Sea Kings at 2 p.m. when they take on Garden Grove in the Southern Division final.

Both games are at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Both brothers are excited for each other.

One of Peter's biggest concerns is having enough time, after his contest is done, to return to the field to watch his big brother's game.

The Bush family realizes the unique situation they have. Sam calls it overwhelming.

After Mater Dei beat St. Bonaventure, 21-0, in the semifinals on Friday, Sam hugged his parents on the field. Each of them cried.

Later, when Sam was with his friends, he sent a text message to his parents telling them he loved them and was grateful for their support.

"I couldn't ask for a better set of parents," Sam said. "They celebrated 20 years of marriage [this month]. You can't ask for a better gift … Kids are asking for the best new thing, and that's all well and good, but the best gift my parents have given me is their support."

The Bush brothers' journey to their respective championship games came with plenty of highlights and smiles. Yet it wasn't without controversy.

Sam transferred into Mater Dei after a sensational sophomore season at Newport Harbor. The Bush family said there were a few who didn't approve of the transfer and weren't shy about showing their feelings.

Blaine advised his son to steer clear of Facebook and Twitter.

"I was president of the [Newport Harbor] booster club," said Blaine, a Newport Harbor alumnus who played football for the Sailors. "I took a little bit of heat myself. "

Newport Harbor's move from the Pac-5 Division to the Southwest played a key part in Sam's transfer to Mater Dei, Blaine said.

He wants the best for his sons and he knows they love football. Sam, a second-team All-Sunset League tackle last year, is working toward playing NCAA Division I football.

Before the summer began, Blaine moved his family from the Balboa Peninsula and out of the Newport Harbor High area to the Eastbluff neighborhood so that Sam would gain eligibility quicker per CIF Southern Section transfer rules. He would have been ineligible for 30 days had they stayed in their Balboa home of two years.

"I loved Harbor," Sam said. "I loved the people there, the teachers, the football program; it was great. But I felt when I was there at Newport Harbor that I was a student and my teammates there were my teammates. But now that I am over here at Mater Dei, it's like a family. When we go out on the field, instead of them just being teammates, those guys are my brothers now."

Once the Bush family settled into their new home, Peter said he didn't want to commute to Newport Harbor. And, after visiting Corona del Mar High with his cousin and teammate, Jack Harris, he fell in love with the small public school.

Peter entered the CdM freshman football program as a receiver. John Griffin, an assistant coach, watched Peter throw the ball after a catch in a preseason practice. A switch was in order. Peter moved to quarterback and directed a no-huddle offense that helped lead the Sea Kings to a 10-0 record.

As a call-up on the varsity team, he said he saw one snap at quarterback.

"It was so fun," Peter said. "I went from freezing to sweating bullets, because I was thinking, 'Wow, this is real.' "

Peter is known for his intense competitive spirit. At 14, he is already 6-foot and his huge hands indicate there is more growth to come.

CdM starting quarterback Cayman Carter will graduate in the spring. Peter plans to put up a fight to take over as the starter. If he accomplishes that goal, Blaine won't be surprised.

He has seen Peter wake up early and show up to CdM to practice on his own before school starts.

Sam also works hard and has a strong love for the game, which makes the brothers' bond stronger.

Sam is known to protect the quarterback, so it makes sense that he enjoys being the big brother and protecting Peter when needed.

Sam is three years older than Peter. Susan said the two have always gotten along well. At the Bush home, the brothers have separate rooms, but it's rare when they are apart.

They know they will be separate on Saturday, playing in different championship games. But as a family they know they remain united.

steve.virgen@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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