Pittsburg Juniors Help Pirates Lead Way to NorCal Regional Bowl Championship


It was like a career day on the Pittsburg soccer field this week. Coaches from Ohio State, Texas, San Jose State and Arizona State walked the sidelines and end zones on Tuesday; Representatives from the Northwest, Arizona and Oregon watched practice on Wednesday.

“It was an assortment of coaches in different colored polo shirts,” Pittsburg coach Vic Galli said.

The men were all glued to the players in bright orange and black. Especially the batch of particularly talented and high-ranking junior players, led by four-star rookies, quarterback Jaden Rashada and receiver Rashid Williams.

Rashada is a slim 6-foot-5, 190-pounder ranked No.5 quarterback in his class nationally and No.42 rookie overall, according to 247Sports. He’s reportedly received 21 offers and right now he’s warm with UCLA, Auburn, Ole Miss, Penn State and Arizona State.

“Fabulous living arm,” said Galli, in his 20th season. “Precise. The best deep ball precision I have ever seen. He wants to be big and takes the time.

Saturday (6 p.m., unless otherwise indicated)

1-A: Pittsburg (9-2) vs. Liberty-Bakersfield (10-2) at Bakersfield College; 2-A: Manteca (10-3) at Wilcox-Santa Clara (9-4); 4-A: Chico (9-3) against the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart (6-7) at Kezar stadium; 6-AA: University Prep-Redding (13-0) to Sacred Heart Prep-Atherton (6-7), 1 p.m .; 6-A:Aragon-San Mateo (9-4) at Salesian-Richmond (9-2), 1 p.m.

Williams, a 6-2, 185-pounder, is the 20th best junior rookie in California. He received 12 offers, including from Stanford and Cal. “I think he could be the best receiver in the state and one of the best in the country,” said Galli. “Truly a unique talent. He’s so physical. Catch it all. It’s a vacuum cleaner.

But Rashada (2,004 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, four interceptions in nine games) and Williams (47 catches, 663 yards, nine touchdowns) “are just the tip of the iceberg” of this pool of junior talent, which for a class is probably the best Galli has ever seen.

Five others – wide receivers Israel Polk, Zack Card, Khai Taylor and Keynan Higgins, and cornerback Robin Boyd – are on the 247 California Top 150 list for the 2023 class.

These were just seven of 71 pirates who made a five-hour bus ride Friday morning to Bakersfield, site of the CIF Division 1-AA Northern California Regional Bowling Championship. Pittsburgh (9-2) will face Liberty-Bakersfield (10-2) at Bakersfield College at 6 p.m. Saturday.

With a win, Pittsburg would take its future varsity squad down the road further south, to Saddleback College in Mission Viejo (Orange County) for the state championship against Long Beach Poly or Serra-Gardena.

While this potential two-game stint is a tremendous opportunity for his juniors to gain more visibility and experience for a state race in 2022, Galli has made it clear that the time is here and now.

Especially with an all-senior offensive line, led by All-Bay Valley Athletic League members Aidan Bandes (6-2, 255), Lisala Takafua (6-2, 315) and Justin Turner (5-10, 210), not to mention one of the Bay Area’s top linebackers to Jakobe Harmon, another senior and All-Leaguer first team player.

“There is absolutely nothing guaranteed for next year,” said Galli. “Yes, we have a huge talent coming back. But we have a great opportunity right now. Let’s take advantage of the present moment.

Galli highlighted 2017, when this junior-dominated team reached the 1-AA State title game, took a 21-0 lead to fall 28-21 to Narbonne-Harbor City. The following season, with considerable talent in college, Pittsburg finished 7-4 and failed to advance to the regionals.

“With this (junior) group I’m not anticipating the path at all,” said Galli. “As well as being talented, they are focused and motivated.”

Perhaps the most versatile athlete among juniors is running back and defenseman Charles Brown, who, at 5-7, 165 pounds, is off the recruiting radar. He ran for 930 yards and 14 touchdowns, and added 21 catches for 232 yards.

“He hasn’t been forgotten this week,” Galli noted of college coaches on campus. “He’s one of the best I’ve ever coached. Absolutely electrifying.

Pittsburg freshmen are also gaining the attention of colleges. Three made important contributions to the varsity team: safety of wide receiver Jadyn Hudson (6-1, 170), strong safety Etene Pritchard (6-1, 180) and tight defensive end Jewelous Walls (6- 2, 225). “In 20 years here, I’ve never had a single rookie or even in the rotation,” said Galli. “This year we have three.

MaxPreps lead writer Mitch Stephens covers high school sports for The San Francisco Chronicle.


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