Pittsburg football team falls in regional championship

Jesus Cano photo

The Pittsburg football team listens to head coach Victor Galli after the team lost 35-7 to Liberty (Bakersfield) last Saturday in the regional championship game.

The Pittsburg High School football team has nearly accomplished everything: multiple league titles, plenty of athletes who have gone on to play college football and, as of two weeks ago, the Pirates earned their first section title in 30 years.

Pittsburg was seeking its first state championship in the program’s history, but that journey came to an end last Saturday night at Bakersfield College. The Pirates suffered a 35-7 loss against Liberty of Bakersfield in the NorCal CIF 1-A regional championship.

Pittsburg head coach Victor Galli consoled his team after the heartbreaking loss.

“First and foremost, that is a damn good football team,” Galli said. “We had opportunities to make plays. We didn’t.”

Pittsburg defensive coordinator Charlie Ramirez made one thing clear to his players: they are still one of the top football teams in Northern California.

The Pirates proved that assertion all season. Pittsburg went 9-3, losing only to De La Salle, Folsom and Liberty, all whom made the A bracket regional playoff games, and Pittsburg finished league play averaging 46.6 points a game and allowing only 13.4 points against.

Yet that Saturday night, the Pittsburg team didn’t look like itself. The Pirates allowed 305 total yards and managed a season-low 109 yards passing. After the game, Galli said starting quarterback Jaden Rashada, who had been nursing a hamstring injury, was at 70% ready to play in the game.

Rashada also missed last week’s North Coast Section Division 1 championship victory over Clayton Valley. Backup quarterback Christian Aguilar — brother of Freedom class of 2019 quarterback Joey Aguilar — stepped in and threw 276 passing yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s not 100%, but he is the starting quarterback here,” Galli said of Rashada. “It’s not that we don’t have confidence in Christian — we do — but Jaden was available to us.”

Liberty’s duo of quarterback Carson Woods and wide receiver/defensive back Jason Oliver connected well all night. Woods connected with Oliver for two touchdowns to lead the Pirates 14-0 at the top of the second quarter.

The Pirates were finally able to produce a drive down the field. With three minutes left in the first half, Pittsburg was 1 yard away from its first touchdown. Instead, the Pirates fumbled on the handoff and Liberty recovered the ball in the end zone.

The Patriots took advantage of the turnover, orchestrating an 80-yard drive that ended in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Woods to Oliver with 13 seconds left.

At halftime, Pittsburg was down 21-0.

“We’re just like, this is nothing,” Rashada said. “We can score that many points in the snap of a finger.”

Though the scoreboard remained silent in the third quarter, Liberty added two more touchdowns in the fourth.

Pittsburg finally scored when Kai Green ran loose for a 51-yard rushing touchdown to cut its deficit to 35-7 with 6:20 left in the game.

Liberty will go on to play Serra Gardena in the state championship game.

“Now I’m just looking forward to getting back to work,” Galli said. “Time to get these guys ready for next year. I hope this makes us more hungry.”