Modesto High holds off Beyer, is in great shape to win MMC crown

ragostini@modbee.comNovember 8, 2013 

— Modesto High senior Lovell Collins will tell the story of what he did Friday night to his grandchildren someday.

How he caught two touchdown passes.

How he intercepted three passes.

How he sprinted 85 yards to the end zone, past a somber Beyer bench, with interception No. 3.

And how he all but escorted the Panthers to the door of a Modesto Metro Conference title with a 28-21 win over Beyer at Chuck Hughes Stadium.

"It feels good," Collins said. "I'm not going to lie."

His pick-6, his second TD in 34 seconds, vaulted Modesto to a 28-0 lead with 8:18 left in the third quarter. But as it turned out, there was plenty of time for a remarkable comeback by the scrappy Patriots.

Jared Barnett streaked down the sideline to snare a 38-yard scoring pass from sophomore Nick Trujillo to close the gap to 28-21 with 1:27 left. It took Fernando Rocha's second straight recovery of an onside kick to protect the Modesto lead.

"Those were good onside kicks, too," Modesto coach Rich Alkire said. "He (Rocha) made huge plays."

Modesto (6-3, 4-1) rang the school bell, sang the alma mater and chanted "MMC! MMC!" at game's end. The Panthers celebrated in part because they're heavily favored to beat Johansen next week.

Meanwhile, Beyer (6-3, 4-1) must beat Downey to share the league title — allowing for a Modesto win next week — but the Panthers have made their point. They own wins over both the Patriots and the Knights. That's why their first MMC crown in four years sits only a week away.

"We learned a huge lesson after Gregori," Alkire said in reference to Modesto's lone MMC loss a month ago. "They haven't let me down since. We'll respect our opponent next week."

Modesto's dominance over Beyer culminated in Lovell Collins' third interception. He read the sideline pass, stepped in front of receiver Paul Fagbamila and dared anyone wearing Beyer blue to catch him. They couldn't.

"He (Fagbamila) cut at five yards, and I saw he (Trujillo) was going with a short drop. I jumped the route," Collins said. "We really needed that one on defense."

Until then, the Modesto win looked like a laugher. Quarterback and team catalyst Tae "Tiki" Tonga, bracketed by running backs Lovell Collins and Antonio Perez (19 carries, 119 yards, TD), comprise the MMC's most potent backfield.

The Panthers, powered by an experienced offensive line, controlled the game's pace. Modesto led 14-0 one play into the second quarter, thanks to a 19-yard pass to Collins — alone in what appeared to be a blown coverage — and a determined 11-yard rip up the middle by Perez.

Tonga and Collins again connected early in the second half, followed seconds later by Collins' biggest theft. At that time, Beyer managed only five first downs and its interceptions outnumbered its completions.

"That Modesto team has gotten better every week," Beyer coach Bill Flesher praised. "Thank God we have one more game."

But the Patriots didn't exactly walk into the locker room. They notched touchdowns on three straight possessions, featuring a 9-yard touchdown pass to Fagbamila and a 10-yard run up the middle by Jay Green (16 carries, 94 yards.)

Modesto, penalized 13 times for 144 yards, contributed to the rally. Alkire eventually stabilized his team in the final moments. He thanked his seniors for keying this turn-around season.

"Lovell and (brother) Lesean are great kids. All these seniors bought in and went the extra mile," he said. "After going 1-9 last year, they worked so hard."

Especially the young man who, in his future, has some stories to tell.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports

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