In the 2018 season opener for San Pedro High football, penalties impeded progress for the Pirates and was the deciding factor in keeping them out of the end zone during an eventual 7-6 home loss to North High of Torrance. The 2019 opener on Friday in a rematch with the host Saxons was the complete opposite, at least for the final score.
Last year's CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division 1 Player Of The Year, senior RB/LB Joshua Ward would pick up right where he left off from his remarkable playoff run... and run he did, for electrifying first half touchdowns of 65 and 50 yards to spark the Pirates to a 25-0 victory over North Torrance. It was the defense that brought it for all four quarters in what was a convincing performance on that side of the ball.
San Pedro only needed four plays on the opening drive of the season to take control, which ended on Ward's 65-yard touchdown run up the middle, outracing the Saxons' defense for a 6-0 lead two minutes into the game as Fabian Garcia's extra-point kick missed wide left.
The defense of San Pedro would then do their thing, forcing four straight punts and allowing only one first down. Ward would strike again with 11:32 to play in the second quarter, as he eluded two potential tackles for a loss of yardage then turned on the jets for a 50-yard score and an 13-0 edge. Senior TE/DL Ale Mares would then recover a fumble for the Pirates' first takeaway, setting up Garcia's 29-yard field goal with 3:24 to play.
Senior WR/DB Jahmar Brown then intercepted a deep pass for another San Pedro takeaway, and four plays later, junior quarterback Dylan Kordic would connect with fellow junior WR/DB Joshua Johnson for a 33-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds left before halftime, and San Pedro would take a 23-0 lead into the locker room.
The second half would see San Pedro's offense stall, only picking up three first downs as they committed nine penalties and lost a fumble, but the defense remained sharp, even managing the final two points of the game when senior linebacker Miguel Lopez-Rosales tackled North's Stephen Bradford in the end zone for a safety with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.
North (0-1) couldn't get anything going offensively, as they only made it past midfield twice the entire night, with their best field position being late in the game on San Pedro's 30-yard line after a turnover. That was due in large part to the Pirates maintaining their poise and making big time stops defensively, a stark contrast to San Pedro yielding over 200 yards rushing to the Saxons in last year's battle at Mike Walsh Pirate Stadium.
Ward only carried the ball seven times, but ran for 136 yards and the two touchdowns to power the Pirates, who won the CIF-LACS Division 1 championship in 2018.
Next up for the Pirates, is a true 'Throwback Thursday' moment, as on next Thursday they return to Daniels Field for one night only against visiting Eagle Rock, who was a CIF-LACS Open Division semifinalist in 2018 and won 43-14 over South Gate in their season opener.