STOCKTON —- Heading into the 2019 campaign, one of the questions surrounding Pittsburg football was who would take the reins as the starting quarterback?
When Jerry Johnson found out he was getting the rock, the senior stepped onto the field with a swagger to him, and left the gridiron with his name inserted into the Pirates’ record book. Johnson threw six touchdown passes in Pittsburg’s narrow 42-35 victory over St. Mary’s-Stockton. tying Justin Boyd’s 2017 record versus Berkeley.
“I got goosebumps,” said Johnson. “I just came in with confidence. I knew if I didn’t come with confidence and was nervous, I wouldn’t have made the plays I did today.”
But this team was St. Mary’s — a well known Sac-Joaquin powerhouse that went on a seven-game winning streak last season.
“It’s different putting it up against a quality opponent like that,” said head coach Victor Galli. “It says a lot.”
Galli planned on giving Santino Chavez some reps at quarterback, but the flow of the game dictated it differently.
“We’re in a good quarterback situation,” Galli said.
Going for the record was never the plan for Johnson.
“I wasn’t aiming for it. I was just trying to put my team on my back,” said Johnson.
From the gate it was a back and forth battle. Johnson threw two touchdowns in the first quarter, hitting Johnny Blackmon III and James Battle III, ending the quarter with a 12-7 advantage. St. Mary’s took the lead in the second quarter when Tyrei Washington rushed in for a 13-yard touchdown. The Rams led 14-12 after two of Pittsburg’s PATs were blocked.
The game kept ricocheting with both teams getting a touchdown pass of their own before the half ended. St. Mary’s held a narrow 21-20 lead at halftime, but Johnson and Blackmon III connected for two more touchdown passes in the third quarter. Blackmon III caught half of Johnson’s touchdown passes, as the Pirates tried to create some breathing room against a Rams team that just would not go away. In the fourth quarter, St. Mary's quarterback Noah May found an open Jadyn Marshall down the middle of the field for an 80-yard touchdown to once again make it a one-score game, but the Pirates responded again as Johnson tied the school record.
On fourth-and-goal, Pittsburg got its insurance score when Johnson connected with Avant Muldrow for a one-yard touchdown, giving Pittsburg a 42-28 lead with 2:28 left in the game. Johnson finished the night by completing 21-of-31 passes for 368 yards and the six scores. Muldrow ran for 94 yards on 18 carries, while Blackmon had 108 yards on six catches.
May responded with another touchdown pass, cutting the Rams' deficit to 42-35. St. Mary’s last shot came on an onside kick, but it seemed more like a gift to Pittsburg, which easily recovered to secure the seven-point victory. The game was a far cry from Pittsburg's 48-7 victory last season, and the Pirates' defense came through with three interceptions to preserve the win.
“Our defense came through when they needed to,” Galli said. “I know we gave up some stuff but we still gotta get better.”
Pittsburg will continue its three game road trip next week at Serra on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m.
St. Mary’s hosts Central Catholic on Friday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.