Pittsburg overpowered in NorCal 1-A regional by Liberty-Bakersfield


BAKERSFIELD — Pittsburg coach Victor Galli gathered his team on the field at Bakersfield College’s Memorial Stadium on Saturday night as the country classic “The Streets of Bakersfield” blared through the scoreboard speakers.

At the southern end of the Central Valley, five hours from home, Galli’s team had just lost to Liberty-Bakersfield 35-7. The Pirates’ season was over. Liberty, not Pittsburg, hoisted the Northern California Division 1-A championship trophy. Liberty, not Pittsburg, would move on to play for the 1-A state title next weekend in Mission Viejo.

Galli told his players they lost to a good and well-coached team. He also told them that, collectively, they could have been a lot better.

“Learn from this,” Galli said.

Pittsburg didn’t have many opportunities to make the game tight Saturday. But the one that went awry unfolded in the final minutes of the first half.

Trailing by two touchdowns, the Pirates drove to the Liberty 1. On third-and-goal, Charles Brown Jr. fumbled and Liberty star Jason Oliver recovered the loose ball in the end zone.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the home team, playing before several thousand fans in the double-deck stadium that holds 20,000, drove 80 yards for another touchdown that made it 21-0 at halftime.

That was plenty of cushion for Liberty.

BAKERSFIELD, CA – DEC. 4: Liberty head coach Bryan Nixon hands the first-place plaque to his players after defeating Pittsburg during their CIF Northern California Division 1-A regional championship game at Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Liberty defeated Pittsburg 35-7. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

The Patriots (11-2) forced a three-and-out to open the second half and added two more touchdowns that widened the advantage to 35-0 with 9:45 left.

By rule, the remainder of the game was played with a running clock.

It wasn’t exactly how Pittsburg (9-3) envisioned their season coming to an end.

The Pirates, fresh off beating Clayton Valley Charter by two touchdowns for their first North Coast Section title in 30 years, arrived in Bakersfield on Friday.

They went through a walkthrough at Memorial Stadium, which is nothing like any venue Pittsburg played in this season. It opened in the 1960s at a time when junior college football drew thousands.

The Pirates were confident, given that Clayton Valley, the team they defeated last weekend for the NCS Division I title, edged Liberty in September.

But whatever happened to Liberty three months ago is long forgotten.

Oliver, whom 247Sports.com rates a three-star prospect, played like a five-star against Pittsburg.

The Liberty senior caught three passes from Carson Woods in the first half, all for touchdowns.

BAKERSFIELD, CA – DEC. 4: Liberty’s Jason Oliver (23) breaks up a pass intended for Pittsburg’s Rashid Williams (1) on fourth down in the fourth quarter of their CIF Northern California Division 1-A regional championship game at Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Liberty defeated Pittsburg 35-7. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

He had several dazzling punt returns and was tenacious in the defensive secondary, hustling to knock down a fourth-down pass near the sideline in the third quarter that could have moved the chains for Pittsburg.

“First and foremost, that was a damn good football team,” Galli said. “Very stout. We knew going in they were very well-coached and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. Quite honestly, when we had opportunities to make plays, we didn’t.

“We had a nice drive and it was going to make it 14-7. We turn the ball over there in the end zone. That was kind of a killer.”

Jaden Rashada returned at quarterback for Pittsburg after missing the Clayton Valley game because of a hamstring injury. The four-star junior wasn’t completely healed but practiced well enough to get the start.

He threw for 64 yards and ran for 11.

“I would say I was probably like 55-60 percent,” Rashada said. “I wasn’t supposed to play, but I was just wanting to be a soldier for my teammates.

“It was tough because I saw a lot of weak spots in their defense where I couldn’t use my legs. I just had to stay there. You did see the plays when I took off. I was kind of running 40 percent. Being a threat with your legs keeps the defense more honest.”

BAKERSFIELD, CA – DEC. 4: Pittsburg quarterback Jaden Rashada (5) sits on the bench dejected during the final minutes of the fourth quarter of their CIF Northern California Division 1-A regional championship game at Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, Calif., on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Liberty defeated Pittsburg 35-7. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Liberty went ahead 7-0 on the final play of the first quarter when Woods threw a 6-yard strike to Oliver, who set up the drive with a 46-yard punt return down the sideline.

With Rashada also Pittsburg’s punter, the Pirates didn’t fare well in that area, either.



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