As usual, Mike Walsh kept late hours last weekend. Saturday he was up until 2 a.m., and Sunday he didn't knock off until after midnight.
No, Walsh wasn't out partying, although the San Pedro High football coach had reason to celebrate after the Pirates edged Palisades, 9-6, Friday night to advance to a City Section championship game for the first time since the school began playing football in 1908.
Walsh's night life for the past four months has consisted of watching game films and plotting strategies with his assistants.
Once the season starts, Walsh becomes a football hermit.
"I don't have much time to see people during football season," he said. "I don't have time to go to booster meetings and booster dinners. I had to decide whether I was going to be a public relations guy or a football guy."
He chose the latter, even where his own family is concerned.
"I took a look at my sons the other night," said Walsh, whose boys are 8 and 2. "They looked like somebody else's kids. They didn't look like the same kids I remember six months ago."
Walsh could say the same thing about his players. What started out as a rebuilding year has evolved into the finest football season in San Pedro's long athletic history. The Pirates (11-1-1) will meet Taft of Woodland Hills (9-4) for the 3-A Division title Friday night at Gardena High.
"I guess some people would have viewed it as a rebuilding year," said Walsh, who had to replace 13 starters from the 1991 team that lost in the semifinals to eventual 3-A champion Crenshaw. "The kids don't want to hear the word rebuild. They want to hear the word win."
In two seasons under Walsh, San Pedro is 18-6-1, including a 5-1 playoff record. During the previous three seasons, the Pirates were 12-19 and reached the playoffs only once.
Walsh says credit for the program's improvement must be shared. He cited his staff of Paul Bryan, Ernie Martinez, John Misetich and Dominic Costa for their dedication. He praised Corey Miller, a former Pirate standout, for working wonders with the team's offensive linemen last spring.
"It's not a one-man job," he said.
Walsh lists among his influences former San Pedro coach Henry Pacheco, on whose staff he was an assistant for four years, as well as Leuzinger Coach Steve Carnes. After Leuzinger beat San Pedro, 28-9, in 1989, Walsh was so impressed with the Olympians he later sought Carnes' advice.
"Unlike a lot of people in the coaching profession, (Carnes) is not a selfish man," Walsh said. "He was willing to share a lot of his coaching philosophies with me. He taught me a lot about defense and offensive line play. He's a genius-type guy. Shoot, I called him (Sunday) night."
Walsh, a 1972 San Pedro graduate, said he hasn't stopped to think about playing in a championship game.
"We haven't reached our goal, that's where my mind is set," he said. "I imagine on Saturday, the day after the game, I'll be lost. I won't know where to go. I'll have to play with my kids or something."
That is, if he can recognize them.
Walsh playfully calls Taft tailback Jerry Brown "The Governor." A more appropriate nickname might be "The Heir." Brown, a sophomore who has rushed for more than 1,600 yards, is the uncle of California tailback Russell White and half-brother of USC Heisman Trophy winner and ex-Ram Charles White.
San Pedro's defense could make things tough on Brown in the 3-A championship game. The Pirates, led by end Michael Spelich and safety Bryant Thomas, have given up an average of 8.8 points a game, with five shutouts.
Former Carson coach Gene Vollnogle coaching \o7 against \f7 Carson?
Somehow we can't picture it, but it could happen Dec. 18 in the inaugural CIF/Reebok Bowl at Anaheim Stadium.
Vollnogle, who became an assistant at Los Alamitos High after retiring in 1990 as the winningest prep football coach in state history, will face Carson if three things happen this weekend:
* Carson beats Sylmar in the City 4-A championship game Saturday at El Camino College.
* Los Alamitos beats Esperanza in the Southern Section Division II championship game Saturday night at Cerritos College.
* Loyola beats Bishop Amat in the Southern Section Division I championship game Friday night at Anaheim Stadium.
The CIF/Reebok Bowl was designed to match the City and Southern section major-division champions, but if Loyola wins the Division I title it will turn down a bowl invitation because its seniors have final exams next week. In that situation, the Division II champion--Los Alamitos or Esperanza--would represent the Southern Section.
Carson football Coach Marty Blankenship has been complaining lately about how certain members of the media have "given up" on his team.
Specifically, Blankenship has been critical of The Times' South Bay section for ranking San Pedro higher than Carson in its area top 10. Blankenship argues that Carson beat San Pedro, 27-0, on Oct. 2 and has played a tougher schedule than the Pirates.
Valid points, but they don't tell the whole story.