In its first year under new head coach Corey Walsh, the Pirates were able to overcome a shaky second quarter and a slew of mind-numbing 15-yard penalties to defeat visiting St. Anthony, 33-14 in their intersectional season opener Friday at Mike Walsh Pirate Stadium.
San Pedro (1-0), fresh off last year's run to the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Open Division finals, started off strong on the heels of its defense.
Senior linebacker Makani Konopka made a crucial tackle from behind on a fourth-and-one play which was just short of the marker, forcing a Saints turnover on downs. Five plays and 46 yards later, San Pedro took a 6-0 lead on a nine-yard touchdown run from senior running back Roman Sanchez with 6:50 to play in the first quarter.
The defense once again made another crucial play when senior WR/FS Laron Tunupopo intercepted a deep pass over the middle and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown nearly one minute later for a 12-0 San Pedro edge, and the score remained that way at quarter's end.
In the second quarter, the Saints pushed back and scored twice with goal line touchdown runs by Elijah Lolesio-Pua sandwiched in between Sanchez's second touchdown run of four yards coming with 7:35 to play in the second quarter.
San Pedro took a 19-14 lead into halftime and opened off the third quarter engineering an eight-play, 65-yard drive that culminated with Sanchez's third rushing score of the night, another four-yard scamper into the end zone, for a 26-14 lead coming with 8:48 to play in the third quarter.
Despite a couple of penalties that wiped out two more touchdown runs for Sanchez of 61 & 21 yards, the defense remained firm in keeping the Saints (0-1) out of the end zone for the entire second half, as the secondary picked off two more passes, with senior WR/CB Jeremiah Robinson coming up with a clutch interception at the goal line. The Pirates then scored the game's final touchdown with Tunupopo catching an eight-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Marcus Jeronymo with 52 seconds remaining.
Junior WR/DB Luka Mardesich intercepted a pass on the final play of the third quarter, and the defense forced another Saints turnover on downs midway through the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
This game was a rematch of last year's opener, where the Pirates dominated the Saints, 42-0 at St. Pius X/St. Matthias Academy in Downey. However, the Saints and their head coach Raul Lara made a strong case for themselves that they're off to another wonderful season competing in the CIF-Southern Section.
Sanchez ran for 144 yards on 20 carries to power San Pedro, who will next host South Gate next Friday. The Rams won their opener, 33-20 over Dorsey of Los Angeles.
(Note: Photo credit is courtesy of Miguel Elliot)