San Pedro won its second consecutive 4-A football title by defeating Woodland Hills Taft, 24-9, in the championship game for the second year in a row.
Consistency, in performance and approach, characterized the Pirates, who became the first team since Wilmington Banning to win consecutive major division championships.
"There's stability here, in the coaching staff and the community," San Pedro Coach Mike Walsh said. "When you have that, you don't have kids jumping from school to school. We've had one kid in six years leave our program and go somewhere else.
"When you have three or four years to work with kids, great things can happen."
The only setback in San Pedro's season, a 12-10 loss to Washington in October, turned out to be a boon. The Southern Pacific Conference defeat ended an 18-game winning streak.
"It's probably the best thing that has happened to us in the last seven years," Walsh said before the championship game. "Sometimes, you have to be hit in the face with reality."
San Pedro finished the regular season 9-1 and was the sixth-seeded team in the playoffs. The Pirates defeated Harbor City Narbonne, Fremont and Westchester to reach the championship rematch against Taft.
Walsh said the key to the victory was San Pedro's ability to make quick adjustments, not only during the game but in the hours leading up to it. The Pirates, for example, changed their defensive alignment slightly to counter Taft's potent running attack.
"We knew we had to do something, but we really didn't come up with what we were going to do until the last minute," Walsh said. "I think we probably make more changes during the week than any other program. And we have the ability to do that because we have the stability. Making a game-day change is not foreign to our players. They've proven they can handle it."
Can they win three in a row?
It will be difficult. San Pedro loses several key players, including linebacker Ryan Solomona and running back-cornerback Holman Wiggins. But the Pirates, by virtue of their stability, will be among the favorites for the 1998 4-A title.
In the 3-A playoffs, for teams not among the 16 that qualified for the 4-A division based on regular-season performance, Woodland Hills El Camino Real defeated Carson for the title.