There were 4 and a half minutes left. San Pedro are clinging to a 14-7 lead over the Wilmington ban on Friday night in a match that decided the Marine League championship.
Banning is facing a third down from 49th First-year San Pedro manager Corey Walsh wants to put Juan Reyes by 5-foot-8 on the defensive end. He is a passing race specialist. But his father, Mike, who has been head coach for 25 years, is on the sidelines to question his son’s decision.
“I was worried about his size,” said Mike Walsh. “But he’s a tough guy.”
The son went with his instincts. “He’s got cool legs,” Corey said.
Reyes delivered the defensive play of the match, recording his first layoff of the season, forcing the ban on betting. The pilots never got the ball back. San Pedro ran out of time and won 14-7. The Pirates finish the regular season 10-0, the Marine League champions and the probable No. 1 seed in the playoffs of the City Section Open Division.
More importantly, the game proved that the rookie head coach trusts his judgment.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him,” said Mike Walsh.
Banning (5-5) fought enough behind junior quarterback Robert Guerrero, who passed for 188 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown pass to Elijah Nuhi-Yandall in the third quarter to even the score at 7-7.
San Pedro is a team that grinds and grinds trying to wear out their opponents. The Pirates had a 7-0 lead at half-time thanks to a four-yard touchdown managed by Makani Konopka in the second quarter.
For the rest, there was little offense in the first half. Banning missed a 27-yard field goal attempt and San Pedro blocked a 30-yard field goal attempt. The San Pedro bout missed extraordinary running back Rowan Sanchez, who is recovering from injury and is expected to return in two weeks for the Open Division playoffs.
Banning’s defense, led by defender Saxson Vaa, kept the Pilots in play.
Santiago Rivera ran 13 yards for a touchdown to bring the Pirates back to the top 14-7 with 10:37 left. His 19-yard completion on the fourth down kept the drive alive.
Last season, the Pirates had more speed and powerful weapons at the catcher.
“We’re more of the grind-it-out team,” Corey Walsh said. “Without shame. That’s who we are.”
San Pedro could face a rematch from last year’s final against defending champion Lake Balboa Birmingham if the lead committee decides to follow the CalPreps.com rankings when the seed is decided on Saturday.
Off the pitch, Banning had to go through a long season of waiting to see if his best returning player, defender Seth Fao, would be allowed to play. So far the answer has been no: he has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis after playing the first game and has been asking for medical clearance for weeks. Doctors have signed up, but the Los Angeles Unified School District needs to agree.
He was distressed on Friday afternoon when he was told he couldn’t play against San Pedro.
“I’m missing the biggest game of the season,” he said during Banning’s pre-game meal.
“We know there is a risk and we have signed,” said his father, Sunny.
“He worked so hard to improve his grades,” said his mother, Lini.
Pilots can only hope it becomes available for the City Section Open Division playoffs in two weeks.