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2022 PIRATES TO WATCH (l to r): Jerry Witty, Jeremiah Gasca, Nicholas Fernandez, Josiah Vargas, and Aiden Acap. (photo: John Mattera Photography)

It’s time to strap on the pads again.

The 2022 high school football season is here, and San Pedro High couldn’t be more excited about it.

The Pirates finished 10-2 last year after setting team records for passing and touchdowns in a single season. They ended their season one victory short of the program’s seventh CIF-Los Angeles City Section championship when they lost 24-14 to defending champion Birmingham of Lake Balboa in the Open Division final last November. 

Last year also marked the end of the six-year coaching regime of Corey Miller, who chose to step down at the season’s end. 

That said, a new era is upon San Pedro for 2022. Their season opener against St. Anthony of Long Beach at Mike Walsh Pirate Stadium on Friday, August 19 (which the Pirates won 33-14), began a new chapter for former Pirate player and new head coach Corey Walsh, son of legendary former San Pedro High School football head coach, Mike Walsh.

The energetic Walsh inherits a team that loses much of its offensive firepower from the 2021 team but still returns several key players on both sides of the gridiron and adds some young talent from the junior varsity team that went 6-1 last season. All of that was displayed during their scrimmage on August 11 at Fairfax of Los Angeles.

San Pedro’s most heralded player coming into this season is 6’4”, 255-pound senior tight end and defensive end Nicholas Fernandez, who has garnered 16 Division 1 scholarship offers, including two from the Pac-12, two Armed Forces offers (Army and Air Force), and three Ivy League offers.

Trying to fill the shoes of the graduated Aidan Jackson at quarterback will be a tag team approach with junior Santiago Rivera, a transfer from Wilson of Los Angeles, and sophomore Marcus Jeronimo, who quarterbacked the JV team last season. Both combined to throw for three touchdowns in the scrimmage with Fairfax.

Jeronimo and Rivera will orchestrate a balanced offensive attack that returns Fernandez and senior running back Roman Sanchez, who will also handle punting duties. Several new offensive stalwarts enter the scene, like sophomore WR/FS Luka Mardesich, junior WR/CB Robert Marnani, senior WR/DB Laron Tunupopo, and sophomore RB/LB Pete Eneliko.

Defensively, the Pirates were very stingy in 2021, apart from a Marine League opening 48-41 loss to eventual league champion Banning of Wilmington, pitching six shutouts, three of them against the other league adversaries.

Many top defensive players are back, including senior linebacker Makani Konopka, an All-Marine League returner, and senior defensive end Jerry Witty, a CIF-LACS champion wrestler who led the Pirates in sacks last season. Those two, along with Fernandez, will anchor the defense as the secondary will have all new starters, including Marnani and senior Matthew Lecona, who also plays wideout.

Both lines are among the biggest in the City Section, and the offensive line, in particular, is expected to move opposing defenses back and produce critical yardage for the Pirates. All returning on the offensive line are Andrew Kirkpatrick, Aiden Acap, Jeremiah Gasca, and Josiah Vargas, all seniors.

Other than St. Anthony, the Pirates’ 2022 schedule also has intriguing battles outside of Marine League competition, with the most critical one being on Thursday, September 1, at Pirate Stadium against Venice, who won the CIF-LACS Division 1 title last season. The Pirates also have City Section showdowns with South Gate (August 26) and Dorsey of Los Angeles (September 16), plus another intersectional battle on the road at Torrance on September 9.

The annual Battle of the Harbor showdown at Banning on October 28, if all goes well for both schools, just might be for the Marine League championship, adding to the drama of the rivalry. spt

photo of san pedro today author Jamaal k Street

Jamaal K. Street

Jamaal K. Street has been writing sports articles and features for San Pedro Today magazine since September 2013. His main objective is spreading the good news of high school sports all over San Pedro, California. Street is also a public address announcer and plays organ/keyboard at Mount Sinai Missionary Baptist Church in San Pedro.