Pittsburg’s football team enters 2017 in an unfamiliar spot.
In each of the last two years, the Pirates have watched another team claim the league championship.
Coach Victor Galli made it clear that he and his team are “well aware of that.”
He also noted that with three weeks to go before the season gets underway, the team has a fair amount of work to do.
“We’re coming along, but we haven’t arrived yet,” Galli said. “We like what we see – we’re progressing to where we need to be – but we’re not there yet.”
Fortunately for Pittsburg, it has a strong group of veteran players to help move the process along.
Returning Players: The returning nucleus includes receiver/defensive back/returning A’Jae Boyd and defensive end Michael Pryor, both of whom are three-year senior starters.
They’ll be sharing the field with a lot of familiar teammates, including senior receiver/defensive backs Jalen Mitchell, Justin Sanders and Donovan Crosse. Returning juniors include receiver/defensive back Willie Harts, running back Jack Lacy and defensive lineman Jacob Bandes, who’s already received a number of scholarship offers.
Under center will be another returning junior, Trey Turner. The quarterback’s continued development has his coach pleased.
“The leaps that he made from last year to this year is already a big improvement,” Galli said. “And we liked what we saw last year.”
New Players: With the majority of the starting defense and a wealth of offensive skill players returning, the greenest part of the Pirates team will be the offensive front. Pittsburg will replace all five of its primary starters.
The line will rely heavily on seniors Nick Martin, Chris Nelson, junior and Isaias Sierra.
Sierra is new to both the program and the school. Martin and Nelson have logged varsity time with Pittsburgh, but primarily to replace injured players or in mop-up time.
“This is our third year in this spread offense,” Galli said. “Now, the kids are coming in who have run it at the lower levels. Hopefully, we’re able to do more and expand more.”
Overview: For most teams, two full years without winning a league title is hardly noticeable. That’s not the case with the Pirates, which tells you all you need to know about the talent of the program.
Pittsburg is generally the deepest, most talented team in the BVAL, and this year doesn’t figure to be any different. The Pirates have had issues with the likes of Najee Harris and Ronnie Rivers in recent years, but both have graduated.
Naturally, having to replace a big group of players every year comes with the territory in high school sports. Pittsburg certainly has to do that. But if nothing else, the Pirates enter the 2017 season as the BVAL team with the fewest question marks.
Looking forward, a big contest will be the battle between Pittsburg and Freedom, which have developed quite a rivalry in recent years. The Pirates and Falcons have won six of the last seven BVAL championships and have met in the playoffs in three of the last four years. They’ll open BVAL play against each other on Oct. 6.
Still, it’s hard to look beyond the opener on Aug. 25 against Southern California powerhouse Centennial, one of the best teams in the county. More often than not, Centennial or St. John Bosco will meet De La Salle in the state championship game.
“If we play well, then it’s a sign that we played great and we’re a great team,” Galli said. “If we get killed, then we know that we’ve got a long way to go. It’s a great measuring stick. And it’s a high school football game. What’s the worst that happens? We go down there and lose.”
Galli also noted that this will be the first in a two-year run of road-trip season openers for Pittsburg. In 2018, the Pirates will open at the Aloha Bowl in Hawaii against St. Louis.
Pirates 2017 SCHEDULE
August 25, 7:00 PM @ Centennial (Corona)
September 1, 7:00 PM @ James Logan
September 9, 1:30 PM @ Serra (San Mateo)
September 15, 7:00 PM vs. Berkeley
September 22, 7:00 PM vs.Vacaville
October 6, 7:00 PM @ Freedom*
October 13, 7:00 PM vs. Deer Valley*
October 20, 7:00 PM vs. Heritage*
October 27, 7:00 PM @ Liberty*
November 4, 1:30 PM vs. Antioch*