When San Pedro High football senior defensive lineman Danny Tanielu-Taliulu rushed into the offensive line of Fairfax of Los Angeles on a critical play late in the second quarter, all he was looking to do was either sack junior quarterback Ryan Kennedy to force a turnover, or something better if that were to occur.
Turned out Tanielu-Taliulu got more than what he bargained for... and then some.
Kennedy dropped back to set up a middle screen pass, and Tanielu-Taliulu was in the backfield so fast he was able to not only stop in mid-stride in anticipating the pass to potentially knock it down, he ended up getting the pass thrown at him in point blank range, easily intercepting it and returning it 31 yards for a crucial touchdown, which was the play that propelled the host Pirates to an eventual 32-14 victory over Fairfax in the final nonleague game of the 2015 season Friday at Pirate Stadium.
That play coming with 2:39 remaining in the first half gave the Pirates (3-2 overall) a 19-0 lead at the time before the Lions (1-4) made it a game, but it also gave San Pedro some confidence and momentum heading into next Friday's pivotal Marine League opener at Banning of Wilmington.
San Pedro led wire-to-wire despite the fact both Kennedy and senior running back Ramses Hernandez, the CIF-Los Angeles City Section's third leading rusher, kept shorthanded and undermanned Fairfax close most of the time.
Senior quarterback Jacob Miller only threw 10 passes, but completed eight of them for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns, an 8-yard strike to sophomore running back Kai Kaneshiro for the game's first touchdown and a 6-0 San Pedro lead with 7:39 remaining in the first quarter, followed by a 33-yard touchdown bomb to a wide open junior wide receiver Raymond Geha with 6:01 left in the third that gave the Pirates a 25-6 advantage.
Fairfax drove the ball to San Pedro's 1-yard line on a time consuming drive that carried into the second quarter after Kaneshiro's touchdown reception, but the defense held forcing junior kicker Obed Hernandez to kick a 19-yard field goal... it hit the left upright and fell harmlessly to the floor.
With 3:38 left in the second quarter, Kaneshiro's seven-yard touchdown run put the Pirates ahead at 12-0 before a bad snap failed on a second straight PAT attempt, but Tanielu-Taliulu's pick six saved the day. However, the Lions didn't go into halftime blanked as Kennedy made up for his blunder on a 56-yard touchdown run off a designed shotgun quarterback draw which caught the San Pedro defense completely off guard with 1:39 to play for a 19-7 Pirate edge.
Geha's touchdown grab would be answered by Hernandez on Fairfax's next possession, as he hauled in a 36-yard pass by Kennedy before scoring on a 27-yard touchdown run the very next play with 4:08 remaining in the third quarter, and suddenly, the Lions only trailed 25-14.
The defense stiffened the rest of the way for San Pedro, and the Lions wouldn't make another roar again, stopping them on downs twice in San Pedro territory, and even adding another takeaway when sophomore defensive back Sean Davenport pounced on a muffed punt snap on the Fairfax 22-yard line in the fourth quarter.
Right after that, Miller went to work and found junior WR/DB Mikey Hernandez Jr. for a 12-yard screen pass, then Hernandez Jr. would score on a 10-yard fly sweep run for the final touchdown of the night, coming with 6:58 to play in the game.
Fairfax would once again turn the ball over on downs even after a defensive pass interference penalty against San Pedro, and the Pirates ran out the clock to savor their second straight victory a week after a bye, which sandwiched their 44-33 victory over Culver City on September 18. San Pedro has also beaten Fairfax six straight times now dating back to their regular season and CIF-LACS first round playoff battles in 2012 & 2013, followed by last year's 42-25 shootout at Fairfax High.
San Pedro still has some things to clean up on defense and special teams, including limiting penalties in the process in preparation for their showdown with Banning (4-1) who had a bye this week and is off to one of their best starts in recent years.