The San Pedro High football team started a new era under Corey Miller in his first year as head coach in 2016, and the Pirates exceeded all expectations, going 10-3 overall and reaching the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I semifinals, where it fell to Dorsey of Los Angeles.
Only other two losses were to eventual three-time CIF-LACS Division I champion Narbonne of Harbor City and Downey from the CIF-Southern Section as the Pirates went 4-1 in the Marine League, good for second place as they won a modest seven in a row after the loss to the Vikings, highlighted by a solid 20-7 win over Banning of Wilmington at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
With that first year of 'Miller Time' now in the memory bank, what will the Pirates do for an encore in 2017?
For starters, the Pirates have brand-new home and away uniforms sponsored by Nike... and a brand-new challenge as they have two different playoff options.
If San Pedro is deemed one of the top eight teams in the CIF-LACS at the end of the season, they will enter the all-new Open Division. If the Pirates are not in the top eight, they will remain in Division I considering there are 24 Division I schools in the CIF-LACS, so all 24 are playoff-bound no matter what.
Before all that is decided though, the Pirates must work their way through the 2017 regular season first, and home field advantage at the Pirate Stadium appears to give them a good blueprint as their first three games, four of the first five, and six of the first eight, will be played at their 18-year on-campus facility.
San Pedro will open the season on Friday, August 25 against South East, and have other nonleague games against Grant of Van Nuys (August 31), Long Beach Cabrillo (September 8), a road game at Downey (September 15) and right back home against Lawndale (September 22), who gave the Pirates fits last season in their inaugural meeting at Lawndale, where the Pirates held on for a 30-27 victory.
The Marine League schedule will only see two games at home against Gardena (October 6 Homecoming) and Narbonne (October 20), with road games against highly improved Carson (October 13), Banning (October 27) and Washington Prep (November 4).
San Pedro returns two All-City players in senior RB/LB Sean Davenport and senior offensive lineman Kenny Howard. Davenport missed the first two games due to injury last year, but still managed 831 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 111 carries (6.3 yards per carry) while also posting 77 tackles, an interception, 2 forced fumbles, 2 pass deflections and a blocked PAT kick defensively.
Davenport will be part of a pretty deep backfield stable that the traditionally run-oriented Pirates are accustomed to.
Also making a return is All-Marine League senior running backs Kai Kaneshiro (670 yards, 120 carries, 9 TDs, 5.6 YPC) and Isaiah Flores (354 yards, 40 carries, 4 TDs, 8.9 YPC), while sophomore RB/DB Giovanni Rizzo after a spectacular junior varsity season will also get some looks in the backfield. Another sophomore, RB/LB Joshua Ward is also very capable.
The quarterback starting spot is up in the air as it will come down between returning senior Matthew Marquez and junior Justin Bernal, who quarterbacked the 2015 JV team to the Marine League title. Both will vie for the spot that was occupied by All-City quarterback Austin Jackson last season, and whoever wins the job, will have some options.
All-Marine League senior WR/S Corey Fausto is primed for a breakout season as he along with returning senior receiver Joshua Bejarano will be the go-to-guys, but the receiving corps got a boost with junior Camerin Thomas, a transfer from Hawkins of Los Angeles. Thomas will be eligible by the start of Marine League play. Not to be left out is senior DeVean Randall, who makes the move from running back to receiver for the Pirates.
All receivers will have big shoes to fill with the departure of San Pedro's all-time career touchdown reception leader, and two-time All-City standout Raymond Geha.
Howard and fellow senior David Carlton are the only returning starters for the offensive line which lost two-time All-City selection Nick Ford to Utah and will have three new starters. Others who appear capable for at least two of those spots are returning seniors Joshua Amador and Timothy Macias.
Davenport, Fausto and All-Marine League junior linebacker Junior Gafa are the top returning defensive standouts for San Pedro.
Showing impeccable instincts in his first varsity season, Gafa is the top-returning tackler for San Pedro with 92 tackles, and he was pretty consistent, 46 solo and 46 unassisted. On top of that, Gafa also contributed with three interceptions (1 returned for a TD), a forced and recovered fumble, a sack and a pass deflection. Fausto picked up 76 tackles, 2 pass deflections, an interception and a forced fumble, also returning a fumble for a touchdown.
Senior defensive end Nick Sezate is the top returner on the line with 27 tackles and three sacks last season, as the linebacker position is stacked with Davenport, Gafa, Kaneshiro, and budding sophomores Joseph Garcia and Matt McCabe who both come over from last year's 8-2 JV team. In one JV game last year, Garcia returned both a fumble and an interception for a touchdown in a victory at Roosevelt of Los Angeles.
The secondary will be led by Fausto, but Bernal, Rizzo, returning senior WR/DB Ryan Riingen and junior RB/DB Khalil Sampson, another Hawkins transfer, are all very capable.
Senior Ramiro Lopez and sophomore Ben Behar will each vie for the starting kicking job left behind by the graduated All-City kicker/punter Tanner Carcamo (Long Beach City College).
Going into their 110th season of prep football (including rugby), San Pedro has posted a record of 556-387-38 overall under 22 different coaches.