Over the three-year existence of the elite North Coast Section (NCS) Open Division playoffs, Pittsburg High School has never been absent.
Pittsburg enters this season having lost some talent, but if the past is any indication, don’t count the Pirates out.
The quarterback spot is up for grabs, which has brought out a strong competition between seniors Jerry Johnson and Santino Chavez. Both players have varsity experience and excelled in Pittsburg’s seven-on-seven team this summer.
“They’re both starter caliber and both have gotten better as the years have gone on,” said 18-year head coach Vic Galli. “It’s a good competition. I can envision both of them playing. They’re doing really well.”
No matter which quarterback wins the battle, one thing is certain: There will be quality targets at their disposal. Jonny Blackmon III leads the receiving group, and James Battle adds depth to the team.
Pittsburg’s line is one of the team’s fortes. Sami Fonongaloa and Ryan Lange bring in offers from Division I schools. Mark Hutchinson is another lineman highlighted by Galli. They’re going to have a talented running back in Avant Muldrow to block for. He made second team All-BVAL last season. Muldrow also received All-Bay Valley Athletic League (BVAL) honors on defense and is considered by many to be one of the best all-around athletes in the league.
On defense, the Pirates return many players at linebacker, with seniors Joseph Luna and Alamana Tupouata along with junior Maurice Jamison. The Harts twin brothers, consisting of seniors Damuarion and Damuarya, will also contribute for the Pirates.
“After having a ton of top-flight guys and returners in 2018, the best part of the 2019 offseason has been seeing this group find themselves as a unit,” said defensive coordinator Charlie Ramirez. “Every day, they seemed to grow as a unit more and more. The staff has been meticulous getting the incoming juniors up to par with the returning seniors.”
Two new faces come to Pittsburg’s receiving core. Senior Brian Pierce comes into the season with his first Division I offer from the Air Force. Freshman Rashid Williams is also expected to shine this season.
“He is mature beyond his years,” said Galli. “He can hold his own. I can only imagine how he’s going to look like when he’s out of here. He puts in good work, he’s a humble kid and a good player. His future is pretty bright.”
Pittsburg also has high hopes for Keointe Guess on both offense and defense. Along with him, the Pirates expect juniors Daytwuan Pearson, Areon Williams and Lamont Fortenberry to excel in skill positions. Kiani Washington, Carlos Warren and Mike Weiver are newcomers who will solidify the offensive and defensive lines.
Pittsburg is not afraid to play anyone, and year after year, its non-league schedule continues to demonstrate that.
The orange and black scheduled a good mixture of opponents, like consistent Central Coast Section contenders Wilcox and Serra, along with Division II powerhouse Bishop O’Dowd.