PITTSBURG -- Though it's just two weeks into the Golden Gate Conference season, the Modesto Junior College football team seems to have found its groove.
The Pirates defeated Los Medanos 42-20 on Saturday, dominating on both sides of the ball for the second week in a row.
Stephen Ortega ran for three touchdowns to lead the Pirates (3-4, 2-0 GGC) in the scoring category. He finished with 61 yards on 13 carries. Two of the scores came in the first quarter, which Modesto led 21-0.
Ortega's first touchdown, a 1-yard run with 10:25 remaining, was set up by a 36-yard pass from Chad Draper to Micah Costello. Ortega was in the end zone with an 8-yard rumble less than three minutes later set up by Marquell Colston's 33-yard run.
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Colston got Modesto started, running for 120 of his 149 yards in the first quarter. A 28-yard Colston run started Modesto's next scoring drive. It was a quick one.
Draper connected with Marcus Allen on a 45-yard touchdown pass with 2:29 to go in the first quarter. Allen got past two defenders to get in position, caught the ball and ran, stretching for the pylon to put an exclamation point on the quarter.
Modesto wouldn't score again until late in the third, after the Mustangs had pulled to within a touchdown.
Ortega scored on a 9-yard run with 3:10 left in the quarter. The next few minutes were thrilling, with the Mustangs' Kevin Williams returning the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to make the score 28-20 Modesto.
But the Pirates blocked the kick and Tim Brown ran the ball back for what would have been two points. Modesto was flagged for an illegal block on the return, though.
A 55-yard pass from Draper to Chris Avey set up a 5-yard touchdown run by linebacker Seth McDaniels, who played running back in high school. That gave the Pirates a 35-20 lead with 1:50 remaining in the third quarter. McDaniels had six carries for 35 yards.
Vince Andrews capped Modesto's scoring with a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown with 6:24 left in the game. Andrews also had an interception in the final minutes. Shawn Turner and Ramall Reed also picked off Los Medanos passes.
Draper, who suffered a minor shoulder separation last week, passed for 202 yards, completing 7 of 18 passes.
Modesto's defense did a good job containing the Los Medanos tandem of quarterback Steve Pachan and leading receiver Michael Lindsey. Cory Nichols did an admirable job covering Lindsey, who had just one reception in the first quarter and three in the first half despite Pachan's repeated attempts to throw to him.
Tensions between the teams almost spoiled Modesto's victory. Trash talking and late hits during the game and some pushing toward the end of the handshake line forced both coaching staffs to intercede.
Modesto JC coach Sam Young kept the Pirates in the far end zone for an extended period of time after the game, trying to make sure the teams wouldn't be near each other the rest of the night.
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.