SAN FRANCISCO — As Sacred Heart Cathedral defenders buzzed around the offensive line and linebackers and cornerbacks sprinted back in coverage with frenetic energy, Marley Alcantara played like he was seeing everything unfold in slow motion.
The 5-foot-10 Pittsburg quarterback threw bullets to short crossing routes with the same ease he completed fade routes into the end zone, despite the best efforts of gusting San Francisco winds at Kezar Stadium.
When the pass rush got close enough to bother the junior, which wasn’t often during a 17 for 21 and four TD pass day, Alcantara just scrambled around for yardage or an opportunity to make another unerringly accurate pass as Pittsburg breezed to a 49-13 victory.
It was obvious that Alcantara’s success as a backup behind current Arizona State quarterback Jaden Rashada wasn’t just the product of since-graduated D-I receivers.
The leader of Pittsburg’s ballyhooed junior class got Charlie Ramirez his first win as the head coach of his alma mater.
“They were no joke and brought a lot of pressure, but I felt like I just needed to get the ball to my playmakers and let them do what they do,” Alcantara said after he threw for 211 yards.
Pittsburg, a storied East Bay program led by Victor Galli for the past two decades, started the Ramirez era with a show of strength.
The Pirates led 21-0 in a perfect first quarter. Even when Jadyn Hudson made a small mistake, dropping a pass on fourth down during Pitt’s opening drive, he immediately made up for it by jumping a passing lane and taking an interception back 51 yards for a score.
After Jewelous Walls, who had two sacks, and the defense forced a punt, Alcantara led the Pirates on an eight-play drive that ended with a short seven-yard TD pass to Makari Kenion to make it 14-0 with 1:47 to go in the first quarter.
When the Fightin’ Irish inexplicably decided to not grab the ball on the ensuing kickoff, the Pitt offense turned the short field into a seven-play drive that Carmelo Martinez capped with a six-yard touchdown reception.
It didn’t take long for Pittsburg to get the ball back, and Kenion scored on the first play of the drive. He caught a screen passed and juked, sprinted and broke numerous tackles in a dazzling 36-yard play that widened the advantage to 28-0 with 8:20 to go in the first half.
“Makari is probably one of the most explosive players in the Bay Area right now,” Alcantara said. “We just need to get the ball into his hands and he’ll make stuff shake.”
Cathedral’s offense finally showed signs of life on its fourth drive of the game, a five-play march that sophomore running back Legend Williams punctuated with a 37-yard TD reception on a wheel route out of the backfield with 6:21 left on the first-half clock.
“I think we can get better, way better,” said Williams, who had 124 yards from scrimmage, and added he hopes the teams can play a rematch in the next few years.
When the Pirates responded with a seven-play touchdown drive — Hudson’s reception accounted for the score — it was clear there would be no rally.
Pittsburg scored two more touchdowns as Ramirez pulled the starters midway through the third quarter, and the Fightin’ Irish put up a touchdown with a running clock in the fourth.
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After his two college-bound stars RL Miller and Jerry Mixon graduated in the spring, coach Antoine Evans knew this season would be a developmental year. So why schedule a perennial powerhouse like Pittsburg when a rout was highly possible?
“That’s the program I want my program to be, and I want them to see and witness it first hand,” Evans said. “It’s not a loss, it’s a lesson.”
The Pitt players splashed Ramirez with ice-cold Gatorade after the final whistle, something the program expects to do again in December as a championship contender.
But winter is a long way away.
As Sacred Heart Cathedral plays at Sacred Heart Prep on Saturday, Pittsburg will take a trip on Friday up to always competitive Granite Bay as the Pirates move into the teeth of their non-league schedule.
“They’re a traditional powerhouse, and we’re going to be tested this week,” Ramirez said.