MODESTO — Modesto High has had trouble this season putting together two consistent halves of football.
Lovell Collins made sure that wouldn't be a problem on homecoming night.
Collins returned the second-half kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown and set the tone for a strong second half in the Panthers' 46-19, Modesto Metro Conference romp over Downey at Don Lanphear Stadium.
"Against Gregori two weeks ago, we came out flat early in the second half," said Collins, referring to Modesto's 22-19 loss after leading 19-0 on Sept. 27. "This was a big momentum shift."
Downey retaliated about 4 minutes later when Mike Falepouono caught his second touchdown pass for the Knight, making it 32-19, but the Panthers closed the third quarter with two Tiki Tonga TD strikes.
The first was to Caleb Sexson a beautifully-lofted timing pattern to the back pylon and the other was a 23-yarder to Nathan King, giving Tonga four touchdown passes on the night.
"Finally, we were able to put four quarters together," said Modesto coach Richie Alkire. "And we did against the team that was probably playing the best of anyone in our league."
It wasn't all offense, however. Modesto's defense came through with six sacks, interceptions by Sexson and Lesean Collins (Lovell's twin), and a fumble recovery by defensive end T.J. Wolf. Both Wolf and Lesean Collins were back after missing two games with injuries.
"We told our players they'd better be ready to play in a championship-type game," said Downey coach Jeremy Plaa. "We talk a lot about being good or being great. We weren't great tonight."
The Panthers struck first when Tonga found Will Gallo on a slant pattern with 9:25 to play in the first quarter. After missing the PAT, pushed back by a penalty, the Panthers led 6-0.
Downey (4-3, 2-1 MMC) took the lead about 2 minutes later when P.J. Wilson hit Tristan Best on a 60-yard fly patter up the home sideline. Thomas Reynolds' extra-point gave the Knights a 7-6 lead.
After Modesto (3-3, 1-1 MMC) regained the lead on a 1-yard run by Antonio Perez, Downey fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive and defensive end T.J. Wolf recovered at the Knights' 31. Three plays later, Tonga hit Lesean Collins from 13 to make it 18-7.
"Tiki was very accurate tonight," said Plaa. "He did a good job of leading his offense down the field."
The Knights pulled to within five, at 18-13, when replacement quarterback Logan Cody hooked up with Falepouono from 28 yards out. But less than 2 minutes later, Modesto struck again when Lovell Collins dashed 40 yards up the middle for the score. Jose Gonzalez's PAT made it 25-13.
"We deserved this win tonight," said Tonga, who was named homecoming king at halftime. "If we play like this the rest of the year, we'll take it, I believe."