During Saturday’s two quarters, it looked like the Modesto Junior College football team would avenge their 2019 loss to Fresno City College and propel themselves to No. 1 in the Valley Conference with two games to go in the season.
MJC shutout Fresno for the first 35 minutes. However, when the Rams broke the seal, the points came overwhelmingly. They scored two defensive touchdowns in the fourth quarter en route to a 22-16 victory at MJC Stadium.
The game featured two of the top 10 teams in the JC programs in California, Modesto placed sixth and Fresno seventh in the recent JC Athletic Coaching Bureau poll.
With the loss, the Pirates are likely out of contention for one of Northern California’s four playoff spots. They are still eligible for a game of pÃ©tanque.
MJC took control of the game early in the first half and it started with defense. Heading into the game, coach Rusty Stivers and his team focused on Fresno’s versatile quarterback Justin Holaday. The Pirates forced three punts and three turnovers on downs in the first half, keeping the Rams scoreless.
“We wanted to be the aggressors,” said Pirates defensive back and Central Catholic Church alumnus D’Angelo Bellamy. âWe wanted to start by hitting (and) making sure they don’t run the ball as much. We wanted to force him (Holaday) to be one-dimensional.
Holaday entered the game averaging 157 passing yards and led the Rams with 71 rushing attempts, but the Pirates allowed just 84 passing yards and 8 carries for 24 yards.
MJC quarterback Gino Campiotti connected with Lucas Curtis for a 22-yard touchdown to cap a seven-play, 88-yard drive and extended the lead to 16-7 with 10 minutes and 17 seconds left to play. third quarter.
These would be the last points of the Pirates.
In the Pirates’ first play in the fourth quarter, Fresno’s Caden Ochoa intercepted a Campiotti pass in midfield and returned it for 49 yards and a touchdown as the Rams reduced MJC’s lead to 16-14 with 11:45 to play.
The Pirates then amassed 77 yards in 10 plays, including nine against Anthony Frias. After burning nearly six minutes on the clock, the Pirates, who outscored Fresno 485-247 and had a 28-9 margin on the first down, seemed ready to put the game aside.
However, Frias fumbled on his next attempt at the 2-yard line, Kiundre McDowell picked up the loose ball and sent it back 97 yards to put Fresno ahead 22-16.
âThe game was a grinder,â Stivers said. âBut turnovers are a huge predictor of victory. We gave up some big offensive games that they capitalized on. “
The Pirates would get the ball twice more, moving closer to the Fresno 28-yard line. However, they lost both possessions on the downs after Campiotti’s two assists on fourth base fell incomplete.
The Pirates are now focused on the last two games of the regular season – against Sacramento City on November 6 and College of Sequoias on November 13 – with the goal of reaching a bowl game.
âWe’re trying to win,â Bellamy said of the team’s mood for the rest of the season. “We just have to win and keep playing.”
Stivers said the loss would be a good test for his team.
âSometimes when you lose a broken heart like this it really kills and people get a little lax,â he said. âYou have 24 hours toâ¦ be upset by what happened. Then, after those 24 hours have passed, what you’ve tried to do is shift your attention to the next opponent and start getting excited about preparing the next opponent.