ROCKLIN — Chalk it up as a chance missed by Modesto Junior College.
The Pirates gained the lead three times Saturday afternoon but never assumed full control of the game and eventually fell to the Sierra College Wolverines 35-20.
The Pirates (3-4, 1-1) never achieved the momentum they enjoyed during last week's 76-32 rout at Sequoias, and a mistake-ridden performance eventually derailed them.
"This should have been a winnable game for us," said MJC coach Sam Young, whose Pirates lost to Sierra (4-3, 1-1) for the third straight year. "We were just too human."
Modesto, trailing 28-20 and back on its own 5-yard line, committed its final error when TeeJay Gordon's short pass was intercepted by linebacker Leonard Hazewood. Michael Davis punched into the end zone from the 1 on the next play with 1:40 left to seal MJC's fate.
The Pirates took their final lead 20-14 during the third quarter on Gordon's third touchdown pass, a 29-yarder to Chris Souza. Modesto went for the 2-pointer and missed.
Sierra jumped ahead to stay 21-20 on an 8-yard pass from A.J. Silva to Zack Suarez.
Silva was the replacement for injured starter Daniel Harding (concussion during last week's loss to Fresno) and responded by throwing four touchdown passes.
Problems cropped up immediately for the Pirates, who opened the game with a methodical march that came up empty. Four tries from the Sierra 2-yard line failed, though Modesto forced a quick punt and eventually parlayed the field position into the early lead on Gordon's short pass to Bobby Mickow.
"We moved the ball well at times but couldn't put the ball in the end zone. Sierra made the big plays," Young said. "It was an unusual game and very reminiscent of our loss here two years ago."
The Valley Conference schedule toughens with next Saturday night's game against unbeaten American River, MJC's first home appearance in nearly a month.
"It won't get any easier for us," Young said.
MERCED 43, REEDLEY 28 Travis Marion caught seven passes for 207 yards and a touchdown for the Blue Devils (3-5, 1-1), who overcame five turnovers to beat the Tigers (1-6, 0-1) in Golden Gate Conference action at Stadium '76. Cory Chapman rushed for two touchdowns for Merced, which led 34-7 at halftime.