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Pittsburg Football’s Swashbuckler Survival Guide Pittsburg Football’s Swashbuckler Survival Guide
The 2019 Pirates Have Battled Their Way Through The Types Of Adversity That Have Derailed Pittsburg Football Teams Of The Recent Past • In... Pittsburg Football’s Swashbuckler Survival Guide

The 2019 Pirates Have Battled Their Way Through The Types Of Adversity That Have Derailed Pittsburg Football Teams Of The Recent Past •

In most cases, the loss of a quarterback to injury would qualify as one of the most adverse circumstances a high school football team could face. That isn’t the case at Pittsburg High this season.

The ability to overcome the adversity of an injury under center might just serve as the perfect example of a journey that has carried the Pirates to a 10-1 record and a spot in the North Coast Section Division I semifinals. Pittsburg hosts Liberty-Brentwood on Saturday at 7 p.m. in a battle of Northern California powerhouses sure to fill the stands at Pirate Stadium.

Make no mistake, Pittsburg’s usual stockpile of talent is still present, and no coach would turn down a roster that features 33 seniors. But to hear those around the program tell it, skill set isn’t the defining characteristic of a team from whom four wins have come by less than a touchdown.

“We’re not selfish at all. We want everybody to win and everybody to shine,” senior quarterback Jerry Johnson said. “We do our best in practice and in the weight room. It starts in the weight room. There’s a bond we have. We don’t put each other down; we encourage each other and we want everybody to execute.”

Pittsburg football, Jerry Johnson

After winning the starting QB job during the summer, Jerry Johnson has shined for Pittsburg in 2019. (David Gershon photo)

Johnson sits No. 1 on the depth chart at quarterback, and in a 41-0 section quarterfinal win over James Logan, the tall right-hander showed exactly why. He turned in a spotless 15-for-20, 201-yard, 3-touchdown performance. The effort was the perfect example of a season that has placed him among the best signal-callers coach Victor Galli has ever had. And through 11 games, Johnson already has over 2,300 yards passing and a sparkling 30-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.


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Those numbers haven’t always come easy. A troublesome ankle injury has forced Johnson to the sideline in a couple of key moments. But, even with that hurdle to overcome, the Pirates haven’t buckled under the weight of the situation.

Instead, fellow senior Santino Chavez has stepped up to the plate when called upon. After battling with Johnson for the starting job before the season, Chavez assumed the backup role. Instead of writing off his final high school season, he stayed ready for anything that might come up.

Santino Chavez

Pittsburg backup QB Santino Chavez celebrates on the field after coming off the bench to lead the Pirates to a win at Liberty on Oct. 18. (Chace Bryson photo)

He was certainly ready in Pittsburg’s first battle with Liberty. With the Pirates trailing by a touchdown and Johnson sent to the sideline, Chavez engineered the game-tying drive. He connected with Brian Pierce Jr. for the game-tying 7-yard touchdown with just under three minutes remaining. Pittsburg went on to win the Bay Valley Athletic League showdown 24-21 in overtime.

Two weeks later, Chavez was ready again. He took over in the final moments of the annual Big Little Game against Antioch and again found Pierce for a 10-yard touchdown that proved the eventual winning score in a 42-41 victory.

“(Jerry) has been great, and when Tino’s had his opportunity, he’s been really good. We’re in a really good quarterback situation,” Galli said. “I think what kind of drove them both was that Tino was here and it was a competition. Nothing got handed to them. It was a good competition and we’re fortunate to have two really good guys.”

Pierce has had the opportunity to work with both Johnson and Chavez and speaks glowingly his chemistry with each. The extra work put in after practice has allowed either quarterback to connect with the receiving corps no matter the situation.

Pittsburg football, Brian Pierce

Senior all-purpose back Brian Pierce Jr. has been a key playmaker on both sides of the ball for Pittsburg this season. (David Gershon photo)

After transferring from El Cerrito for his senior season, Pierce fit in quickly both as a playmaker and a leader. He points to a bond that goes much further than just the passing game to describe why the Pirates have found success in trying circumstances. 

“We’ve built a good team chemistry. Everybody on the team is ready,” Pierce said. “There’s nobody we leave behind. We practice how we play and we’ve come out on top because we push that extra mile in practice. It shows on the field.”

With another major test looming in Liberty, the Pirates aren’t quite ready for reflection when it comes to the road they’ve traveled. 

But those close results, whether narrow BVAL victories over rivals or tight nonleague wins over tough NorCal opponents like St. Mary’s-Stockton or Wilcox-Santa Clara, might serve as a foundation to build on if times get tough against a group of Lions hungry for revenge.

Victor Galli

Pittsburg football coach Victor Galli has been pleased with the ability of his 2019 team to never panic under pressure. (David Gershon photo)

“Quite honestly, we ended up 9-1 and had a good record but we were in some close games. The past four years, we’ve lost some close games that could’ve easily went our way. This team happens to be winning those games,” Galli said. “We could be 6-4 but this team has fought through that. 

“That’s one of the great things about this team – its resilience and its ability to play through games like that. And, some good fortune helps too. These guys deserve it. It is good to win those close games because it seemed like these past four years, those football gods weren’t shining as bright on us.”

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Ben Enos

Ben Enos is a freelance journalist who has previously worked for Bay Area News Group and within the University of California Athletics Department.

  • Paul

    January 20, 2022 #1 Author

    Great article Mr.Enos I realize this was 2yrs ago. Santino and Jerry are going to JC, they’ll play against each other in the near future (hopefully). It won’t be the last you hear about These two QB’s.
    Thanks for the kind words in regards to Santino. He’s a special athlete. Underrated/ overlooked


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