Football’s endless puzzle simplifies with one of the game’s basic lessons: Winning teams take care of the ball.
The Modesto Junior College Pirates have not followed that vital rule this season. They’re 0-2 largely because they’ve turned it over eight times compared to their opponents’ three. A minus-5 in turnover margin almost guarantees defeat.
That’s why MJC has reversed second-half leads into a 37-27 loss at American River and a 51-26 defeat in last week’s home opener against fourth-ranked San Mateo. Modesto seeks improvement in Friday night’s nonleague game at Diablo Valley.
“We’re looking for more consistency on offense and stringing some first downs together,” MJC coach Sam Young said. “The turnovers have hurt us.”
The problems were magnified last weekend after Modesto took a 19-10 lead over San Mateo. From there, the Pirates downshifted: a fumble that led to a CSM touchdown, a missed field-goal attempt, two interceptions for San Mateo touchdowns and a final CSM touchdown after the officials botched a rule on a kickoff.
The MJC offense, one of the most prolific in California in recent years, has struggled as freshman quarterbacks Joe Legerrette-Luke and Spencer Thomas gather experience. Legerrette-Luke will start at DVC, but Young said Thomas (sore ribs) might be cleared to play.
Regardless, the Pirates are adjusting their approach. Injuries to important contributors such as tailback Anthony Cota and receivers Zach Moreno and Chris Souza have compromised their fast-tempo attack. Souza (separated shoulder) might return for the start of Valley Conference play. Moreno (shoulder) will miss Friday’s game.
Cota, MJC’s 230-pound force, bounced back from an early game injury at American River with instant production last week. He rushed for 217 yards on 15 carries and scored on impressive runs of 88 and 53 yards. Solving DVC’s high-pressure defense is the key this week.
“We have to settle down and let the play come to us. We’re pressing,” Young said. “Going to our strengths will be good for us. We’re a formidable running team, so finding a way to rest our defense is important.”