Field Generals Spark 2013 Prep Football Season

Mary Star's Tyler Sestich and San Pedro's Jacob Miller. (photos by Joshua Stecker)

The 2012 season brought upon new phases for both San Pedro and Mary Star of the Sea High School football.

In the prior year, San Pedro rolled to a perfect 10-0 regular season with a Marine League championship to boot (12-1 overall), while the Stars went completely the other way around with a disastrous 0-10 campaign.

Once the 2012 season ended, it saw the Pirates go 8-4, and the Stars made a miraculous return to the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs by closing out the year winning four out of their last six games.

All of that sets up a promising 2013 campaign for both schools and the two who are looking to guide their teams to greatness are two young and promising quarterbacks who both came from Holy Trinity.

San Pedro sophomore Jacob Miller and Mary Star senior Tyler Sestich are two of the latest quarterback sensations to come out of Holy Trinity, following in the footsteps of former San Pedro High quarterback greats such as Jonathan Marselis from the 1997 CIF-Los Angeles City Section championship team, Gustavo Navarro from the 1998 and 1999 Pirate teams, and of course, the 2011 CIF-Los Angeles City Section Co-Offensive Player Of The Year, Kenny Potter.

Both quarterbacks will be working behind experienced offensive lines and playing in front of two passionate and well-supporting fan bases at two of the best and historic atmospheres in the South Bay and Harbor Areas, the Pirate Stadium (San Pedro) and Daniels Field (Mary Star).

Believe it or not, Miller and Sestich’s paths didn’t cross together at Holy Trinity. “(Sestich) was two grades older than me,” Miller said.

Sestich added, “When I was on the 7th and 8th grade team, Jacob was only a 5th or 6th grader but we did play together on an All-Star team at Peck Park.”

Miller and Sestich both had an interesting 2012 season, to say the least.

Mary Star started off the year 0-3, with the third loss being a heartbreaking 21-15 loss to St. Anthony of Long Beach, which ended up being the last of what was a 15-game losing streak. In that game, Sestich threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Alves on a fourth-and-long play with 48 seconds left that allowed the Stars to pull within one, and then a gutsy and successful two-point conversion run from Sestich’s fellow quarterback mate Jeremy Atencio put the Stars up, 15-14. Unfortunately, the hard-fought win was taken away when the Saints threw a 47-yard TD pass 30 seconds later.

The streak finally ended a week later when the Stars rallied to topple Verbum Dei of Los Angeles, 20-19.

“In 2011, we all worked really hard as a team and the scores didn’t reflect the effort we gave all year,” Sestich said. “But in 2012, we worked equally as hard and it felt great to see our hard work and effort translated on the scoreboard. And it wasn’t due to any one guy, it was our whole team working hard.”

Sestich, who split time as the starter with Atencio last season on matchup purposes, was the top passer on Mary Star who ran the spread offense that mainly favored the running game. He completed 38-of-75 passes for 437 yards, three touchdowns and seven interceptions. However, the Stars are looking to go more pro-style with their offense where the quarterback is lined up more than five yards behind the center in a shotgun style attack, which the spread normally is like.

What will also help Sestich tremendously is the fact that every single offensive line starter for the Stars are seniors. “The pro-style offense fits my style better,” he said.

Meanwhile, Miller didn’t find instant success right away at San Pedro, but he would soon make history by becoming the first freshman quarterback to ever take a snap in a varsity game. Miller was the starter on the junior varsity team for the first eight games, but was bumped up to varsity shortly after.

With San Pedro leading Harbor Area neighbor Banning of Wilmington by a sizable margin on October 26, 2012, head coach Mike Walsh substituted Miller into the fray, and history was made.

“It was a really good feeling, and a big accomplishment to be the first freshman to do that,” said Miller, who did not attempt a pass in the Pirates’ 48-6 victory over Banning. Miller threw for five touchdowns on the JV level, with his favorite play coming against Gardena in a Marine League opener where he scrambled to his right and threw a gorgeous pass on the run to Anton Srsen for a 22-yard touchdown.

Miller, who started playing flag football at age nine and played Pop Warner football for Palos Verdes starting at the peewee level, also comes from a great family. His father Leonard is now in his second year as the San Pedro Pirate Booster Club president, while his sister Macy, also entering her sophomore year, was the junior varsity girls soccer most valuable player in 2013.

San Pedro will once again look to challenge the likes of two-time defending CIF-Los Angeles City Section champion Narbonne of Harbor City and perennial powers Carson and Banning for another Marine League title in 2013. Walsh is excited about the defense and Miller’s raw but very amazing potential.

When asked who he thought was San Pedro’s biggest rival, Miller was pretty clear on his answer.

“Since they’re the defending champs, I would say Narbonne,” Miller said. “But Carson will give us a good game as well.”

Miller and the Pirates actually start off Marine League play on October 11 at Carson, and then they host Narbonne the very next week, so there’s a strong chance the Pirates can win the league again if they can win both of those games, and still have an outstanding run in league competition simply by winning at least one of those showdowns.

Sestich thinks Mary Star should do well enough to challenge La Salle of Pasadena for the Camino Real League championship this season and was pretty definitive on who he believes is the Stars’ biggest adversary in league play.

“Bishop Montgomery,” said Sestich. “We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been at Mary Star and they’re our rivals. I think we have a great shot at beating them this year.”

Mary Star will travel to face the Knights on September 27.

Other than the offensive lines that will seek to protect them, there’s one thing that will also carry Miller and Sestich throughout their respective 2013 seasons, and that’s an overwhelmingly support system and fan base at their schools. The experience at San Pedro is unlike any other, especially when the Pirates march onto the field through the fabled Victory Arch, a long treasured staple at school for 76 years.

“The Pedro fans are great and you really feel the energy behind you at the home games,” Miller says of the Pirate football followers. “And I know many of them will be there to support us at the away games.”

Speaking of which, the Pirates have six away games in 2013, with the first one being the second-longest road trip in school history when they travel to Morro Bay for their season opener on August 30. Morro Bay is a five-hour, 220-mile trip. This game came about after Centennial of Compton, the Pirates’ original opponent for Week 3, backed out, and no one else but Morro Bay had an opening in their schedule.

“It will be a good test to see how our team performs,” Miller says of the Morro Bay opener.

As far as the Mary Star football experience at their home facility Daniels Field goes?

“My dad (John) played for Pedro there and my mom cheered for Mary Star and our traditional walk down the alley is great,” said Sestich, who’s sister Meagan is a 2009 San Pedro High grad who once pitched for the JV softball team. “Our fans are great because they’re so loud and supportive. It’s just an overall awesome atmosphere, and to top it off we walk back down the alley (to Mary Star Elementary School) with our fans to say a decade of the Rosary at the Grotto.”

For those who aren’t familiar with the Grotto, this tradition got started in the 1960s when the football team would go to Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church and sing the alma mater to the nuns who taught them. In the 1970s, former Mary Star coach Joe Radisich began the tradition of walking down the alley to and from the old high school at the church.

Mary Star opens their season on September 6 with a long road trip of their own to Aquinas of San Bernardino.

Should the 2013 seasons be as fruitful for the San Pedro football teams, expect Miller and Sestich to play big time roles in the successes of both the Pirates and the Stars. It will definitely be a promising journey for both. spt

A Few Words About The Fish Market

When I was seven-years-old, I spent the summer going to work with my dad, Henry Ungaro, where I shoveled ice, packed fillets and learned how to smoke fish like halibut and salmon. I also learned a great deal about hard work that year and decided it was best to spend the following four summers of my youth riding my bike and playing with friends instead. Good thing I did, because at age 12 I had no choice but to return to work with my father.

It was Good Friday, 1982, when the San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant finally opened its doors after a seemingly endless year of round-the-clock construction. My brother John was 10 and I was 12 when it became our job to set up the dining room for Auntie Carol on Sunday mornings, then help Dad set up the smoked fish display in the showcase before spending the rest of the day scaling and gutting fish, steaming crabs and washing down floors.

It was cold, wet and dirty, but we were able to spend time with our dad, which was rare as he and his partner Tommy Amalfitano had been working seven days a week to not only open the doors of the new business, but keep them open.

Working at the Fish Market has always been a family affair for the Ungaro and Amalfitano families. In 1957, my grandfather, Mackey Ungaro, put his son Henry and best friend Tommy to work at his storefront located at the corner of 9th St. and Meyler. They were only 15-years-old and the business was called Vista Seafood. Eventually, they moved the operation down to the waterfront as Norm’s Landing where Tommy’s mother, Mary, and his sister, Rosemarie, joined in.

Sooner or later, everyone found him or herself behind the counter or in the dining room, including Tommy Jr. and Tiffany, my brother Henry, sister Jennifer, Auntie Betty, Grandpa Mickey and many others.

It’s been over a half century since we started and here’s a short list of the accomplishments we are proud to share with the community of San Pedro:

  • We are the largest Fish Market/Restaurant in Southern California with seating for 2,000 and over 10,000 visitors a weekend.
  • We draw seafood lovers from all over the country, from every walk of life and every demographic. Take a look at our Facebook, Yelp and YouTube pages and see for yourself.
  • We co-host the World’s Largest Lobster Festival drawing tens of thousands of visitors to San Pedro every year since 1999.
  • We’ve been awarded a Guinness World Record for our work on the Lobster Festival.
  • We were privileged to host Grammy Award-winner Mumford & Sons on their Railroad Revival Tour, which also drew thousands into San Pedro.
  • We employ over 100 local residents with starting pay well above minimum wage while also offering healthcare, 401k and paid vacations.
  • For hundreds of local kids, San Pedro Fish Market was their first job. Many have come back to thank us for the invaluable lessons of hard work and responsibility that carried them into successful careers as doctors, teachers, nurses, attorneys, accountants, longshoremen, police officers, POLA workers and even as an L.A. City Councilman.
  • We support many local organizations in San Pedro, including the Boys and Girls Club, Mary Star, Holy Trinity and POLA High School.
  • We are moving to make San Pedro nationally synonymous with fine seafood by launching our World Famous Shrimp Trays into retail stores. As of Feb 1, 2013, San Pedro Fish can be found in over 400 grocery stores across four states.

We have always been very modest about our accomplishments and charitable contributions, preferring to remain anonymous without seeking acknowledgment. However, I now believe it’s important for the community to know what we’ve done. Not because we need a pat on the back or a thank you, but rather because so many of our family members are no longer here to tell these stories…and they need to be told.

There are many desperate to make changes to the waterfront, to improve it, to make it a world destination. We’ve been working on that for 55 years and welcome the help. spt

Michael Ungaro is the COO of San Pedro Fish Market Enterprises, Inc.

The San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant is located at Ports O’ Call Village (1190 Nagoya Way). For more info, visit www.SanPedroFish.com or find them on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter.