SBLive California is previewing the Top 50 high school football teams in the state ahead of the 2020-2021 season. Even with the season on hold, we will continue to highlight the best teams, players and coaches in California. Here’s an inside look at the Pittsburg Pirates of the CIF North Coast Section, the No. 26 team in our countdown.
PITTSBURG HEAD COACH
Victor Galli, 19th season
2019 AT A GLANCE
- Overall record: 11-2
- League record: 5-0, 1st in Bay Valley League
- CIFNCS Division I Playoffs: defeated James Logan 41-0 and Liberty (Brentwood) 21-14, lost 49-7 to De La Salle in championship game
ALL-LEAGUE PLAYERS DEPARTED
RB/CB Avant Murdrow – Offensive Player of the Year, First Team Defense
WR/DB Brian Pierce Jr. – First Team Offense, Second Team Defense
WR Johnny Blackmon III – First Team
OL/DL Samiuela Fonongoloa – First Team (offense and defense)
OL Mark Hutchinson – First Team
LB Alamana Tupouata – First Team
K Lorenzo Anaya – First Team
QB Jerry Johnson – Second Team
WR James Battle III – Second Team
LB Damuarya Harts – Second Team
All games are at 7 p.m. unless noted otherwise.
- Jan. 8 vs. San Mateo
- Jan. 22 @ San Jose Valley Christian
- Jan. 29 @ Wilcox
- Feb. 5 vs. Half Moon Bay
- Feb. 12 @ Monterey Trail
- Feb. 19 vs. Freedom
- Feb. 26 @ Heritage
- Mar. 5 vs. Liberty (Brentwood)
- Mar. 12 @ Deer Valley
- Mar. 20 @ Antioch – 1:30 p.m.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Eli Brickhandler – SR.
As a junior at Whitney (Rocklin) last season, Brickhandler threw for 2,259 yards and 18 touchdowns, and ran for 743 yards and eight more touchdowns.
OLB Maurice Jamison – SR.
The all-league UNLV commit had 53 tackles (five for loss) last season, and can also contribute in coverage.
OT Ryan Lange – SR.
An all-league returner, Lange is a 3-star Cal commit.
DB Areon Williams – SR.
Williams made second team all-league as a junior, finishing with eight pass break-ups.
CB Lamont Fortenberry – SR.
Fortenberry led a staunch Pittsburg secondary with three picks (tied) and 10 passes defensed last season.
WR/S Rashid Williams – SO.
Williams caught for 272 yards and five touchdowns as just a freshman in a crowded receiver rotation. The 4-star ATH prospect is one of the top WR candidates in NorCal to break out at an elite level, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become a factor at safety and special teams as well.
QB Jaden Rashada – SO.
Another 4-star sophomore offensive weapon, Rashada transferred in from Liberty (Brentwood). He’s likely penciled in as Pittsburg’s QB2 this season with Brickhandler on board, but at minimum he’s the Pirates’ star quarterback of the future.
WR Matthew Quesada – SR.
As a junior at Freedom, Quesada caught for 853 yards and eight TDs. He’s nationally ranked and has received D-1 interest, so all signs indicate he will be another major deep threat for Pittsburg this season.
WR Bryant Weekly – SR.
Another transfer from Freedom, Weekly is a 3-star recruit with multiple D-1 offers.
WR Keynan Higgins – SO.
Yet another new face at receiver ready to make an instant impact, Higgins already holds an offer from Arizona State.
WR Israel Polk – SO.
The fifth D-1 caliber wideout on the roster (and third sophomore of those five), Polk already has an offer from Cal.
HOW COVID-19 HAS AFFECTED PITTSBURG FOOTBALL
“We did individual workouts … everyone on that team is dedicated to workouts, with and without the team,” said senior CB Lamont Fortenberry.
“We were able to do stuff as a group [within COVID-19 guidelines]. The pandemic was a minor setback but we’re changing that into a major comeback.”
Last season, Pittsburg proved to be the second-best team in Division 1 behind De La Salle. The Pirates return some talented upperclassmen and also got a large influx of transfers who will one day play Division I ball. This squad could potentially separate farther from the rest of the pack this season.
Despite going 11-1 up until the finals, losing only to Serra San Mateo, Pittsburg fell 49-7 in the title game to De La Salle. So, the best-case scenario in 2021 would be going undefeated through the regular season and first rounds of the playoffs, and coming into the title game against De La Salle on some kind of tear that gives them a shot at doing the unthinkable – ending DLS’ unbeaten streak of over 300 games against NorCal foes.
This is a talented Pittsburg team that has an identity of not backing down to anybody. And coach Galli probably wouldn’t have scheduled arguably the hardest non-league slate in Northern California – Serra San Mateo, San Jose Valley Christian, Wilcox, Half Moon Bay, Monterey Trail – if the Pirates weren’t aiming high.
MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO
Despite its abundance of competition, Pittsburg is the favorite to win the hotly contested Bay Valley League and make another finals appearance. Don’t expect anything less than another playoff surge and a top-three finish in the section.
“Everyone’s been training and exercising and stretching and taking really good care of their bodies … Our goal is go off and dominate every single one of our opponents.”
– Lamont Fortenberry