Halfway through the season and with the Valley Conference race beginning next week, the Modesto Junior College Pirates like their status.
They’re 3-2, two wins better than 2014 against the same schedule, once again the toughest in Northern California. The Pirates are off this week but already target their homecoming game and VC opener against the Sequoias (4-1) on Oct. 17.
“If you would have told me before the season that we would start 3-2, I would have said, ‘Yes, please!’ ” MJC first-year head coach Rusty Stivers told the Modesto Quarterback Club this week.
35 MJC’s points-per-game average on offense
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Stivers referred to losses to fifth-ranked College of San Mateo 51-41 and sixth-ranked City College of San Francisco 41-27 last week. Modesto was competitive against both perennial powerhouses, who are a combined 8-2.
Meanwhile, the No. 9-ranked Pirates have beaten American River 41-10, Diablo Valley 35-34 and Sacramento City 31-20.
Here’s a progress report after five games:
MVP on offense: Quarterback Trey Cooper (1,180 passing yards and seven TDs, 383 rushing yards and six TDs), braced by high expectations, has surpassed them. The 230-pound sophomore remains the team’s top threat despite a few injuries. “Great attitude, physical and a leader by example,” Stivers said.
MVP on defense: Linebacker Justin VanFleet, the team leader in tackles. “We were running our plays away from him,” San Mateo coach Bret Pollack said.
If you would have told me before the season that we would start 3-2, I would have said, ‘Yes, please!’
MJC first-year head coach
Biggest surprises: Freshman cornerback Lesean Collins, who has held his own against taller receivers all season; freshman right tackle Cristian Romo, who converted from his days as a tight end at Central Valley; sophomore running back Aden Ruiz (400 yards, six TDs), and sophomore cornerback Bryan Pascual (four interceptions).
Biggest disappointments: Lack of consistency in the passing offense and pass protection. “We’ve run the ball well and defended against the run, but we’ve struggled at times passing the ball and defending against the pass,” Stivers said.