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MJC wins eventful football home opener over Santa Rosa JC

The Modesto Junior College football team’s home opener on Saturday had just about everything. From a blazing fast start to a 45-minute weather delay to over 90 total points scored, over 1,200 yards of total offense and a clutch defensive stand.

In the end, despite the unpredictability of the weekend’s matchup with Santa Rosa Junior College, only one thing matters to head coach Rusty Stivers: “We’re 2-0.”

Nothing stopped the Pirates from moving the ball down the field in Saturday’s 51-41 win. They were led by quarterback Luke Weaver, who is happy to be fully recovered from a dislocated hip that sidelined him for two-thirds of last season. Weaver completed 25 of 31 passes for 320 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Five Pirates scored rushing touchdowns. Lyon Colon, Joey Stout, Baker Melendez, Cruz Marines and Weaver all reached the end zone.

MJC gained 669 yards of total offense, came away with three interceptions and sacked the Santa Rosa quarterback nine times.

“It was just a ridiculous game, but we finished out on top. That’s all that matters.” Stivers said.

MJC scored on its first three possessions. Stout took a handoff on the game’s opening play for 60 yards, Weaver connected with Bronson Burrow for 33 yards and Melendez found Bronson England for a 30-yard touchdown pass.

Modesto’s Joey Stout breaks a tackle during the game with Santa Rosa at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto won the game the game 51-41.
Modesto’s Joey Stout breaks a tackle during the game with Santa Rosa at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto won the game the game 51-41.

The Bearcubs charged back, scoring 21 unanswered points to take a one-point lead with seven minutes left in the first half.

A 45-minute delay in the middle of the second quarter due to lightning halted all momentum Santa Rosa stole from the Pirates. When play resumed, MJC scored three unanswered touchdowns to take a 38-21 lead.

“We didn’t have a great Friday practice and I think that’s another lesson that we can talk about is that our guys have to take every opponent like they’re playing in the Super Bowl,” Stivers said. “I don’t know if that was the case today, but that’s something we’ll talk about on Monday.”

Isaac Torres was Bearcub quarterback Jacob Porteous’ favorite target all afternoon. The receiver finished with 11 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns.

Torres made multiple hard-fought scores, jumping over Pirates defensive backs draped over him in coverage.

“I’ve never seen a kid play that way on our field since I’ve coached here,” Stivers said. “We have good DBs that were in a position to make a play and he just reached over and took it away. There’s only so much you can do, but we got the job done.”

The Pirates came away with a key stop on Santa Rosa’s final possession. MJC had two sacks, forced four incompletions and came away with a red zone interception to seal the 10-point win.

“It feels fantastic,” Stivers said of the team’s 2-0 start. “It feels like a lot of the stuff that happened today is very correctable, and it’s almost good that it did happen so we have film to teach off of.”

Modesto’s Bronson England scores a touchdown after a catch during the game with Santa Rosa Junior College at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto won the game 51-41.
Modesto’s Bronson England scores a touchdown after a catch during the game with Santa Rosa Junior College at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto won the game 51-41.

A top 10 matchup coming

The 2-0 start sets up a matchup with reigning state champion San Mateo on Saturday at 1 p.m.

The last two times the Pirates played Santa Rosa at home, they have won, but due to scheduling issues, MJC hasn’t hosted the Bulldogs since 2018. In the Sept. 4 edition of the CCCSIA Football Poll, San Mateo was ranked California’s top team and Modesto came in at No.10. The Pirates’ ranking could rise after Saturday’s win.

Last season, the Pirates lost multiple players to injury against San Mateo, including Weaver.

They shuffled through quarterbacks during their nonconference games and entered Valley Conference play with a 1-4 record. Though they regrouped during conference play, there is still a sense of what could have been for last year’s ultratalented squad.

The Pirates will hope to make it three straight home wins over San Mateo.

Modesto’s Bronson England makes a catch past Santa Rosa’s Solomon Hall and runs in for a touchdown during the game at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto won the game 51-41.
Modesto’s Bronson England makes a catch past Santa Rosa’s Solomon Hall and runs in for a touchdown during the game at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto won the game 51-41.
Modesto players return to the field and warm up after the team’s home opener was stopped for 45 minutes in the second quarter due to lightning strikes near Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto went on to win the game 51-41 over Santa Rosa.
Modesto players return to the field and warm up after the team’s home opener was stopped for 45 minutes in the second quarter due to lightning strikes near Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto went on to win the game 51-41 over Santa Rosa.
Modesto head coach Rusty Stivers, right, calls out to his offense during the game with Santa Rosa at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023.
Modesto head coach Rusty Stivers, right, calls out to his offense during the game with Santa Rosa at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023.
Modesto’s Alonzo Jackson breaks toward the end zone on a run during the game with Santa Rosa at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto won the game the game 51-41.
Modesto’s Alonzo Jackson breaks toward the end zone on a run during the game with Santa Rosa at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, September 9, 2023. Modesto won the game the game 51-41.