Sailor father roots for Sea King son

It doesn't take much of an effort for Giovanni Gentosi to find his father during a football game. The orange fishing hat his dad, Paul Gentosi, usually wears makes him easy to spot.

Paul will be out there Friday night, when his son's team, Corona del Mar High (3-0), plays host to Newport Harbor (1-1) in the Battle of the Bay rivalry game at Orange Coast College at 7.

When Giovanni looks for his dad, Paul will be on the opponent's sideline. Paul played for the Sailors back in the day. But Paul won't be on the Sailors' sideline because of his ties to the school.

Paul will be working the game as part of the chain crew. It's his turn to volunteer his time for CdM's second home game of the season.

"It's the best seat in the house," says Paul, who isn't complaining about the fact that he cannot sit at all during the game.

The four members of the chain crew will find out their jobs on the night of the game. Paul hopes he can be the clip guy, who ensures the original line of scrimmage is not lost if the chains are dropped or moved.

The job affords Paul the most time to watch the game. And when he's following the action, unlike most fans, he pays close attention to the offensive line, especially the 6-foot-2, 230-pound teenager wearing No. 73 for CdM.

That's Paul's son, Giovanni, a senior center, one of the top players on the field. From his vantage point, Paul can hear Giovanni make the calls at the line, hear his pads and helmet knock back linemen and linebackers.

There are times Paul and the other three dads working the chain crew have to drop everything and move in a hurry. They're that close to the players.

They aren't young dads. Sure, during Paul's senior season in 1966, he says he weighed almost as much as his son and stood just as tall as him.

These days, Paul, 64, doesn't look as big.

"I've shrunk," Paul says with a huge laugh.

Paul has changed and so has the game since his playing days.

From the size of the players, to the offenses teams run, to the uniforms teams wear, football looks different to Paul. He's all for the sport evolving.

What reminds Paul of the past is the jersey number his son wears. Paul wore No. 73 as a tight end for the Sailors. Back then, he says the team assigned him the number.

At CdM, Giovanni chose to wear No. 73.

"I wanted to honor him," Giovanni says of his father. "He was a big part why I started playing in the first place. I always played other sports. I never really thought about playing [football]. I wasn't going to play at first, and then my dad … talked me into playing."

Giovanni is thankful that his father nudged him to suit up. He has been a major cog in the Sea Kings' back-to-back CIF Southern Section Southern Division title run.

In many ways, that's why Paul played football for Newport Harbor, because his father, Attilio, played high school football in Iowa. Paul says his father, as a fullback, earned a scholarship to Iowa State, but then the Great Depression hit, forcing him to quit school and go to work.

You hear the word trenches to describe the area of the field where football games are decided. From the stories his father tells, Giovanni knows the work he puts in on Friday night, blocking for CdM, doesn't compare to what Attilio, a first generation Italian-American, did for a living. He worked in gaping holes as a coal miner.

"They had it tough," Paul says of his dad, his uncle, Hiram, and his grandfather, Giovanni, who all worked as coal miners.

The family decided to leave the mines, Paul says, when his aunt, Lydia, visited Costa Mesa in 1946. She raved about the weather. When Hiram got out of the Army, the family moved. Three years later, Paul was born.

Paul grew up on the eastside of Costa Mesa and went to Newport Harbor. His first year at the school was in 1963, the same year as the inaugural Battle of the Bay game against CdM.

The Sailors won the first meeting, 13-12. Since then, the game hasn't been that close. Newport Harbor holds a 38-13 edge in the series, including six straight wins.

"We won [the game three out of the] four years that I was at Newport," says Paul, who graduated in 1967, "but to be fair, Corona del Mar in those days was just initiated as a school. They were starting from ground zero."

What CdM has on its side going into this year's contest is momentum. The program is on a 13-game winning streak, its best stretch in school history.

"We were so close the last two years," says Paul, referring to the Sea Kings' 27-26 loss in 2012 and their 29-26 loss in 2011. "It [came] down to the last few seconds really that things came apart. But I have a good feeling about this year."

If you see Paul on the Sailors' sideline, it won't mean he's pulling for his alma mater. The only pulling he will be doing is of the chains, hopefully in the favor of his son’s team.

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