MJC faces tough test tonight

There's no doubt the College of Siskiyous football team can score.

The Eagles clobbered College of the Redwoods 72-0 their opening week.

That just makes the Modesto Junior College team more excited to prove itself against the 2006 Mid-Empire Conference champions tonight at 7 at MJC.

"This week has been all about getting beyond our limits," linebacker Eddie Abbasi said. "Finding the real you and getting to the next level, seeing what you're really made of. Practice has been intense."

Both teams enter the game 1-1. Siskiyous lost to Delta 30-27 last week in a game decided in the final three minutes.

Minutes after beating Gavilan 44-14 last week in Gilroy, the Pirates were thinking about Siskiyous. Quarterback Chad Draper said Modesto wouldn't celebrate long and running back Marquell Colston agreed.

"We've got to step up next week," Colston said at the time.

With only eight players from California on its roster, Siskiyous pulls athletes in nationwide. Jermaine Holmes of Loris, S.C., leads the ground attack with 88.5 yards per game. The quarterback tandem of Ben Cozad (Olympia, Wash.) and Matt Jackson (Portland, Ore.) averages 388 yards passing.

Draper averages 303.5 yards on his own, with lots of options. Draper has connected with at least seven receivers the last two games. Colston averages 131.5 all-purpose yards and has scored three touchdowns. Receiver Marcus Allen averages 97.5 yards and has two scores.

Modesto's defense will be tested. Delta totaled 518 yards against the Pirates in Week 1, with quarterback Andrew Beam running for 69 yards. MJC was better against Gavilan, allowing just 208 yards and breaking up numerous passes.

"Siskiyous is very formidable," Modesto coach Sam Young said. "They were very good last year and it looks like they've improved. We might as well get used to it. We'll get a good dose of it against Reedley and West Hills (the next two weeks) as well."

Abbasi is particularly happy to be on the field. He played in 2005, but was forced to sit out last season with a fracture of the L1 vertebra in his lower back.

Abbasi first felt tightness in his back while running the 40-yard dash at a combine in San Jose. He never sought treatment and it got worse.

"It became a lot bigger deal than I thought," Abbasi said. "The doctors said it would just take time. I laid back and didn't do too much. It was kind of hard watching the team out there last year."

A sports medicine major, Abbasi started working out again in March with athletic department trainer Bob Boswell. Abbasi said he looked forward to playing football again all year, and hopes to continue at a four-year school.

He and Andrew Kessler lead the Pirates with six solo tackles each. Abbasi also blocked a field goal against Gavilan.

"He's the emotional leader of our defense," Young said. "He's our spark plug. He's a very emotional player, and he feeds on it to play at a very high level."

Bee staff writer Kelly Jones can be reached at or 578-2300.