The 2013 season seems eerily similar to 2012 thus far for the Modesto Junior College Pirates.
They've opened with convincing wins in their first two games and will welcome Laney of Oakland, a team the Pirates beat 40-27 last year, on Saturday night.
MJC stands one win away from a repeat of its 3-0 start a year ago. Sounds good, right?
It is good, to a point.
Modesto's sophomores also remember what happened later six losses in their last seven games when the schedule toughened. In fact, the Pirates expect a major challenge from Laney (0-2), which extended 10-time national champion City College of San Francisco before falling 21-8 last week.
Laney, which dropped its opener to San Mateo 41-27 MJC travels to San Mateo next week led 8-6 before San Francisco took charge in the final 11 minutes.
"Laney is better than last year," MJC coach Sam Young said. "The San Francisco game lets you know about the strength of the Laney team, especially on defense."
The Eagles applied pressure on the CCSF quarterback, a strategy they no doubt hope to repeat against the Pirates' TeeJay Gordon. How MJC's go-go offense attacks the blitzing Laney defense will go far to decide the victor.
Sophomore Marcus Hernandez, one of three MJC running backs to score two touchdowns apiece during last week's 61-28 victory over Hartnell, believes Modesto has improved this season. The Oakdale product has bounced back from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last 2½ games of 2012.
"We can't be satisfied every week. That's where we were last year," Hernandez said. "Last year we were a little cocky. I feel confident this team is better."
Modesto couldn't have envisioned a better start to a game than last week against Hartnell. The Pirates parlayed an interception and two fumble recoveries into a 34-0 halftime lead. Their win was clinched before the break.
The Pirates' offensive line center Carlos De Leon, guards Ivan Delgado and Joe Vargas, tackles Brandon Jurevich and Jaidyn Sheetz and tight end Jake McCreath bore through the Hartnell defense to produce 400 rushing yards.
Some sloppy mistakes during the second half gave the MJC coaches plenty to correct. From here on, the Pirates' focus must sharpen.
"One thing we did very well is not give up the big play. We have to continue that containment," Young said. "Our schedule will get more rugged the further we go."
NOTES Kickoff is at 6 o'clock at MJC Stadium. ... MJC's injury problems at inside linebacker have intensified. Brandon Camara missed last week's game, and Erik Hernandez went down against Hartnell (knee). Young said it's unlikely either will play Saturday night. Chad Hale's playing time is expected to increase. ... The Pirates are ranked 17th in California and eighth in NorCal. ... Slot Ricky Fuentes, who turned several sly-sweeps and reverses into 140 yards and also returned a punt 35 yards for a touchdown, received the team's weekly award for special teams. The top player on defense was freshman safety Markell Perkins, who recorded three tackles (one for a loss) and recovered a fumble.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports.