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Modesto JC football struggles in second half of top-10 matchup with College of San Mateo

Any energy and momentum on the Modesto Junior College football team’s sideline slowly but surely faded away in the second half of Saturday’s top-10 matchup with College of San Mateo.

The Pirates went into halftime with a 14-7 lead but surrendered 23 unanswered second-half points, falling to the No. 1 junior college in California, 37-20.

In the Sept. 11 edition of the Junior College Athletic Bureau (JCAB) Football Poll, San Mateo was awarded California’s top spot while Modesto was crowned the No. 10 program in the state. Both teams entered the season 2-0.

“When you play a good team, mistakes become magnified,” Modesto coach Rusty Stivers said. “We stumbled in the red zone, we had some false starts and we kept losing yardage. … All those little things, we have to make happen. I’m glad that we responded and brought it back to 10 points there in the fourth quarter. But yeah, super frustrating.”

Modesto’s Kyle Jackson (8) breaks up a pass intended for San Mateo’s Anthony Freeman during the game at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.
Modesto’s Kyle Jackson (8) breaks up a pass intended for San Mateo’s Anthony Freeman during the game at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.

Modesto quarterback Luke Weaver found Bronson England twice in the first half for Pirates touchdowns. The freshman out of East Union completed 26 of 37 passes for 347 yards and three scores and rushed for 12 yards. He also threw a late-game interception. England was the game’s leading receiver, catching 14 passes for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Lyon Colon had the team’s other touchdown reception, a 41-yard play in the fourth quarter.

The Pirates’ defense kept the Bulldogs’ explosive offense in check in the first half. With San Mateo in the red zone three times, Modesto forced turnovers, recovering a fumble, coming away with an interception and forcing a turnover on downs just before halftime.

The second half was dominated by the Bulldogs. San Mateo made three field goals and scored on a rushing and a passing touchdown to take a 30-14 lead with 6:32 remaining in the game.

San Mateo quarterback Anthony Grigbsy completed 21 of 34 passes for 436 yards and a touchdown. Running back Nate Sanchez rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.

The Pirates travel to Butte College next week and then play American River at home Sept. 30 at 1 p.m.

“We have a preseason, and then league starts, and if you win your league, you’re in the state playoffs, and that’s what we want,” Stivers said. “We want to win our league. That’s the main goal. So we have to figure out a way to improve so that we get the opportunity to play a team like that in the state playoffs.”

Modesto’s Bronson England falls backward while making a catch during the game with San Mateo at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.
Modesto’s Bronson England falls backward while making a catch during the game with San Mateo at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023.