2011-11-17 / Sports
Bruno brings it
Oak Park junior plays ‘sideline to sideline’
These men were born to play football.
Bruno is only 16, but he competes like a man among boys.
A junior defensive lineman for the Oak Park High football team, Bruno leads the Eagles into their CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoff opener against Cabrillo of Lompoc Friday night at 7 at Lompoc High.
Bruno doesn’t merely disrupt offenses. He is a force of nature— a monsoon wrapped in a hurricane swathed in an earthquake bolstered by a blizzard.
“ He’s the heart and soul of that line,” said senior defensive back Aki Zapata. “He always brings the intensity.”
Bruno wasn’t even allowed to play football until the seventh grade because his mom thought he’d get hurt.
“And I was the same size back then,” Bruno said with a chuckle.
That’s only a slight exaggeration.
Bruno checks in at 6- foot- 3 and 275 pounds.
For the first half of the season, the junior started at right tackle. He focuses only on defense these days, relentlessly pursuing the football.
“Wherever the ball goes, I follow it no matter what,” Bruno said. “If the ball’s in the air, I chase after it.”
Head coach Terry Shorten marveled at Bruno’s desire for the pigskin during one play against Camarillo.
The junior got cut on a bubble screen to Scorpion wide receiver Jake Maulhardt. Bruno fell down, got back up and tackled Maulhardt 40 yards away.
“He has a passion for the game and a will to get to the ball,” Shorten said. “He never stops.
“He’s learning how to play through double teams to get to the ball. Most of the time, Luca’s chasing the play down. They run away from him, but he’s always chasing it down, sideline to sideline.”
Bruno leads Oak Park with 115 tackles and four forced fumbles while adding six sacks and a fumble recovery.
Teammates and coaches appreciate having Bruno on their side.
“Luca’s a special player,” said Michael Puopolo, Oak Park’s defensive line coach and junior varsity head coach.
Puopolo played football at Oak Park and Cal Lutheran.
“He’s naturally intense in practice and games,” the coach said. “There’s a presence about him that energizes the team. My personal opinion is he’s a little behind on technique. What he lacks in technique he makes up for in his physical ability and tenacity.”
Junior quarterback Jack Gerstenberger said Bruno brings “swagger” to the defense.
“He’s a straight-up football player,” Gerstenberger said. “He loves the game. . . .
“If I had to pick three guys who work the hardest on this team, he’s one of them.”
Bobby Surane agreed with
“He’s always hustling and he always has a positive attitude,” Surane said of Bruno.
Bruno is a different person away from the gridiron.
“He’s a teddy bear,” Puopolo said. “ He’s a gentle giant off the field.”
Despite the Eagles’ modest 3-7 record, Bruno is thrilled to keep playing. Oak Park will have its hands full against the 8- 2 Cabrillo Conquistadores.
“I’m happy we’re in the playoffs,” he said. “I’m not sick of football. I still want to play.”
Bruno played two games as a freshman. He started last year, but has become a force this fall.
He’s thinking about picking up mixed martial arts during the offseason to improve his hand speed and technique.
Bruno, who enjoys bodyboarding, threw the shot put and discus for the track and field team the past two years.
His older sisters, Francesca and Gabriella, starred on the OPHS track squad. Bruno’s mother, Patrice D’Amico, was a prep swim standout, while his father, Frank Bruno, played fullback for UCLA.
Bruno was born to play football, but he knows it takes teamwork to get better.
“I hope we make it far in the playoffs,” he said. “Next year, I want the team to train together in the offseason and get some good wins. I still want to be dominating on defense. I want to bring my teammates up with me.”
First-round postseason matchups
• Eastside (4-6) at
• Mira Costa (4-6) at
Oaks Christian (8-2)
• Thousand Oaks (6-4) at
Quartz Hill (8-2)
• Moorpark (6-4) at
• Oak Park (3-7) vs.
Cabrillo of Lompoc (8-2)
• Viewpoint (7-3) at
All football games are
Friday night. Viewpoint
plays at 6:30. Oak Park,
Westlake, Oaks Christian
and TOHS kick off at 7.