May 27, 2017

Sac State football recruit to face cousin in Causeway Classic

Central Catholic High School seniors Montell and DaRon Bland, with high school football coach Roger Canepa by their side, signed their letter of intent on Feb. 1 to attend UC Davis and Sacramento State, respectively, in the fall of 2017. (Photo courtesy of Brett Butler/The Performance Lab)

After national signing day, the 2017 Causeway Classic has the makings of a family feud written all over it.

Cousins DaRon and Montell Bland, football standouts at Central Catholic High School in Modesto, have gone from teammates to rivals after signing to play for Sacramento State and UC Davis, respectively.

DaRon will be playing defensive back for the Hornets, citing the coaching staff as a factor in his decision to attend the university, where he hopes to major in either nursing or kinesiology.

In addition to being named to the Sac-Joaquin All-Section preseason team with his cousin, DaRon was named as the Valley Oak League’s Defensive Player of the Year in his senior year. The Causeway Classic this fall will mark the cousins’ first time competing against each other in their lives.

“We have played Pop Warner together ever since we were 6 or 7 years old,” DaRon said.

The amount of time the Bland cousins have spent playing football together is a reflection of how close the two are.

“(Montell) is like my brother — we are always together everyday,” DaRon said. “His parents are like my parents.”

Central Catholic High School seniors and cousins DaRon and Montell Bland signed their letter of intent on Feb. 1 to attend Sacramento State and UC Davis, respectively, in the fall of 2017. The pair played together for the Northern California team in the JPS Paradise Bowl championship game on Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy of Montell Bland)

The connection between the two stretches beyond their last name, as they spend the majority of their days together on and off the field.

“We are with each other almost every weekend (and) every day at school,” Montell said.

Montell, a member of the Central Catholic varsity team for all four years of school, has expressed a passion not only for the game of football, but also the possibility of majoring in both sports psychology and kinesiology while at UC Davis. After college, Montell said he wants to be a physical therapist.

“My sophomore year, I had an injury to my ankle,” Montell said. “I was in the physical therapist’s office trying to get healthy, so I had the interest when I was in there.”

Louis Bland, Montell’s father, served as their youth football coach. Louis, a Sac State football player from 1989 to 1991, reinforces the importance of education for the young men.

“We always talked about getting an education, using their athleticism to get their education, go to college and get the student athlete college experience,” Louis said in regards to advice he gave Montell and DaRon growing up.

Louis played in two Causeway Classics himself, and understands the value of the rivalry and what it means to each institution.

“The history of the Causeway Classic is pretty big,” Louis said, advising Montell and DaRon to take the game seriously. “Wherever we were at during that time of the season was put on the back burner, that week it was all about that game. Coach (Mike) Clemons would get so intense — it would scare me sometimes. It will be good for them to get to experience what a rivalry is.”

Louis’ allegiance to Sac State will be tested, now that his son Montell will be playing for the Aggies next year.

“Me being a Hornet, and DaRon being a Hornet, I am going to be caught in the middle, but I am going to enjoy it,” Louis said.

As for DaRon, Sac State can look forward to seeing the future Hornet join the roster later in 2017, and the Bland family can watch the two cousins cross paths during the Causeway Classic on Nov. 18.

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