SAN ANTONIO – The O’Connor Panthers will face the Brandeis Broncos in a rivalry game on Saturday, Aug. 26 — the culminating matchup of the 2023 KSAT Pigskin Classic triple-header in the Alamodome.
Thousands will watch the Panthers play the Broncos, Holy Cross faces Antonian, Southside takes on Somerset and Jefferson face Uvalde, over the fun-filled two-day event.
The showdown between the Panthers and Broncos is a revival of last year’s season opener for both teams, a game that Brandeis won, 27-17.
Last season didn’t go according to plan for O’Connor, as they finished with just a 4-6 record. Their four wins came during district play.
Determined to get off to a fast start this year, they hope to rebound against their main rival in the Alamodome.
In an interview with KSAT 12 Sports, O’Connor Head Football Coach David Malesky said when O’Connor and Brandeis play, you can throw records and the previous years out.
He called the rivalry a “daggum battle” and a heck of a football game each and every year.
“We’re really grateful to be a part of this and play the game, with the rivalry that O’Connor-Brandeis already is anyway, and now it’s just magnified in terms of being in the Alamodome,” Malesky said.
He said the game is as intense as other rivalry games across the state, even comparing it to the Lone Star Showdown in college football, between the Texas Longhorns and Texas A&M Aggies.
“It’s what Texas and (Texas) A&M used to be. But they’re not playing anymore, but we are. We’re not in the same district, but we’re still playing. I know when we found out that we’re going to be in different districts it’s important that we continue to play each other, just because of that rivalry. It’s what high school athletics is about,” Malesky said.
Malesky noted that he and Brandeis Head Football Coach Charles Bruce have a friendly history that goes way back to high school, but for three hours on Saturday, he won’t like him.
“My mom and his mom, when we were in high school they went to games together, so I’ve known Charlie for a long, long time. So it’s more than just a friendship, we grew up together and Charlie’s done an incredible job everywhere he’s been and he’s a great guy and his kids do things the right way because of his leadership,” Malesky said. “(Just) being able to play a huge rival like that, against a team that is similar, in terms of coaching and things (it’s) because Charlie and I grew up together.”
O’Connor is led by their huge 6 foot-4 inch offensive lineman Briley Brown, a 2024 UTSA football commit and current three-star recruit, according to 247Sports. He’s expected to bring a veteran presence to the unit as a three-year starter in the offense. The defense will showcase the talents of linebacker Ryan Mason (16 tackles, 2 sacks last year) and defensive backs Ryder Dorn (20 tackles, 2 interceptions), Nicolas Chapa (37 tackles) and Cali Evan Billeala (17 tackles).
“The other thing that I am kinda excited about is that it is going to give people that might not normally see what the rivalry is about, an opportunity to see it and kind of feel it,” Malesky said.
And while O’Connor was having its struggles last season it was an exciting season for Brandeis, as the Broncos finished 9-3 overall and 7-1 in district play, ending the year as a District II area finalist.
This season, the team looks to continue the tradition and take the next step, as they try and rebuild with just six returning starters.
Brandeis Head Football Coach Charles Bruce said it’s easy to get up for the season opener, especially when it’s a rival.
“Oh, it’s going to be exciting, we’re looking forward to it, we’re looking forward to playing O’Connor,” Bruce said. “I feel like it’s going to be a playoff atmosphere, it’s always a great game, and it’s one of the biggest rivalries in the state of Texas.”
Despite the loss of his starting quarterback J.C. Evans, who has since moved to Florida, this year the team is still in capable hands. New starting quarterback Tre’ Pepito has already previously started twice, winning both games. Junior wide receiver Jaden Perez is a breakout candidate, after totaling 691 yards and six touchdowns last season. On the defensive side, defensive back Jacob Voss (74 tackles, 4 INTs) should provide senior leadership from his free safety position. He’ll be paired with defensive lineman Andrew McConnell (29 tackles, 4 sacks) and cover cornerback Deron Hall, who blocked two field goals last year.
Bruce, who enters his third season at the helm, likes where his team is headed.
“It was already a great fan base, a great community, and the program was already established. We just were coming in here, trying to make sure we don’t mess things up,” he said.
He is also stoked about the potential matchup against such a close friend.
“Football brings everyone together, Bruce said. “I’ve had an opportunity to play with him (O’Connor Head Football Coach David Malesky) and now coach against him, so it’s pretty exciting,” he said.
Kickoff for the game is set for 7:30 p.m.
About the KSAT Pigskin Classic
The second-annual KSAT Pigskin Classic will kick off Aug. 25 and 26 at San Antonio’s Alamodome and tickets are now on sale.
This year’s KSAT Pigskin Classic is even bigger than last year’s inaugural event, with four high school football games to kick off the Texas high school football season.