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

San Pedro Nursing Professor Leaves Her Mark on India

Vivian Churness’s love affair with India began more than a half-century ago. A young nurse recently graduated from Hope College in Michigan, she went to India in 1960 and served the next four years as a missionary nurse-tutor at the famous Scudder Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Ranipet.

She returned to the States, where she earned her master’s in psychology from Notre Dame, Ph.D. in nursing from Indiana University and a Family Nurse Practitioner certificate from USC, where she was a faculty member until retiring.

There is nothing “retiring” about Churness, however. She plays numerous instruments and still teaches music. Over the years, the longtime San Pedro resident has continued visiting India as a consultant in nursing education, and she has just overseen the publication of a nursing textbook that she co-authored with Leah Macaden, a native of India who also is a nursing professor.

“Another textbook doesn’t seem like a big deal to us, but it is to them,” Churness says of Indian nursing students. “There simply are no textbooks in India at a level of English that is easy to read and understand.”

Nursing Management Concepts and Skills (Including Ward Management) is in English for very good reasons. “To be registered as a professional nurse (R.N.),” Churness says, “they must know how to read and speak English. Doctors’ orders are written in English. All of their lectures are in English, as is their licensure exam. English is a second language for them. When they start the nursing program at age 17 or 18, the only English some of them know is what they learned in English classes in school. They can read it but have difficulty speaking, understanding and writing English.”

In a nation of rampant poverty, Churness also notes the book sells for only $6. “This was released as a national nurses convention in Delhi at the centenary celebration of the Christian Medical Association of India,” she says. “They were overjoyed to have the book. It was well received and will be used by Christians in mission hospitals and by non-Christians in private and government hospitals.”

According to Churness, the content is prescribed by the Indian Nursing Council in the syllabus for registered nurse education, and, “We were careful to cover all of the prescribed content so it can be used in any nursing program.”

In fact, orders for the book already have been received from three other countries, including the United States.

Churness announced the book’s publication at Trinity Lutheran Church of San Pedro, where she and her husband, David, are longtime members. She wanted to publicly thank the many church friends who had assisted her on the book over the previous 18 months. So it comes as no surprise to those who know Churness that the dedication page reads, “To God Alone Be the Glory.”

On the Gridiron

The high school football season is nearly over, but it’s not too late to remember Gene Vollnogle, the legendary coach who died at age 81 on the same day as San Pedro’s own famed sportsman, Van Barbieri.

Vollnogle was a familiar, dare I say “hated,” figure to several generations of San Pedro High coaches, athletes and fans. As first co-head coach at rival Banning (1957-62 with Paul Huebner) and then head coach at Carson (1963-90), Vollnogle compiled a 22-3-1 record against the Pirates. (He was “only” 4-2 against San Pedro while at Banning, and it was those two victorious Pirate teams, from 1961 and 1962, that were honored this year.)

When Vollnogle moved to the newly opened Carson campus in 1963, however, he began a domination of City football unequaled by anyone save his own former player, Chris Ferragamo of Banning.

Vollnogle in particular embarrassed San Pedro High year in and year out. It wasn’t just the 18-1-1 record he compiled against the Bucs, it was the way it was done: the average score was 39-7. In 15 of those 20 games, San Pedro scored one touchdown or less (seven shutouts). The competition became so lopsided, the outmanned Pirates dropped down a division in 1980, and the two teams didn’t meet for eight years. When play resumed in 1988, Carson continued to dominate. It took current coach Mike Walsh to restore order to the rivalry, but he started the year after Vollnogle retired. Walsh and Vollnogle did compete against each other once, however; the Colts defeated the Pirates, 47-0, in 1971, when Walsh was team co-captain.

The highlights for San Pedro against Carson were the one win, the famous Danny Bondon last-minute catch in my senior year (1968), and Mickey Teora’s 1973 team managing a 6-6 tie against the defending City champs.

Vollnogle was a true genius, and even though his teams left their cleat marks all over the Pirates, the San Pedro Sportswalk still saw fit to honor him with a plaque in 2012. spt