As College of Siskiyous was marching up the Modesto Junior College Stadium field almost at will, it became evident that the Eagles were doing something Pirates fans have seen quite often over the years.
Yes, Siskiyous was playing nearly the exact brand of football MJC coach Sam Young has pushed his own teams to play. But this time, the visitors played it better than the hosts.
The Eagles controlled the ball by running 90 offensive plays to roll up 538 yards of offense and pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 40-20 victory over MJC.
"Those were two very similar offenses and there's no doubt about it," Young said. "Hats off to them for playing well tonight."
The game was tied 20-20 when Stephan Ortega scored on an 8-yard run for MJC with 7:28 remaining in the third quarter. But from that point on, the Pirates would get only five more first downs while the Eagles went on to score on drives of 66, 68 and 46 yards in the final 19 minutes.
Most of that late offense was on the ground, as Siskiyous (2-1) came at MJC with a very effective three-headed rushing attack. Jermaine Holmes carried 21 times for 131 yards, Kelvin Bailey carried 13 times for 104 yards, and Gene Norris gained 79 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns.
In all, the Eagles had 348 rushing yards on 58 carries -- enough to wear down anybody's defense.
"You want to think your team is in condition and ready to go," Young said. "But we knew they would be tough just looking at what they did against Delta -- losing by three while committing seven turnovers."
There would be no Siskiyous bobbles in this game, another key in dropping MJC to 1-2 in the non-league portion of its schedule heading into difficult road games against Reedley and West Hills.
"I thought this could have been a stepping-stone game for us, especially with the two road games we have coming up," Young said. "We'll still go to the Graffiti Bowl if we're league champions, so there's no such thing as a must-win game until you get to league play."
Neither team could be stopped early, a trend that started with Siskiyous' first possession. Thanks to three penalties, the Eagles needed to move 116 yards for their first touchdown, and the 11-play drive ended with an 11-yard scoring run by Norris.
Modesto answered immediately with a seven-play, 58-yard march capped by Chad Draper's 15-yard pass to Micah Costello. Draper finished 25 of 39 for 240 yards, but the Pirates' running game gained only 98 yards.
After the Eagles were stopped deep in Pirate territory, MJC moved quickly to take the lead. Draper, who connected on his first seven passes, hit Marcus Allen three times for 56 yards to set up Marquell Colston's 1-yard plunge.
The conversion was missed, but Siskiyous returned the favor after scoring on their next drive, set up by Brandon Peterson's 70-yard kickoff return. The Eagles needed only six plays to move the final 24 yards, with Kalvin Bailey scoring from the 6 to tie the game 13-13.
The defenses took over the second quarter until Siskiyous found its rhythm on its final possession of the half, moving 62 yards in 12 plays. Norris' second score of the half was a 5-yard run with 23 seconds left in the half for a 20-13 lead.
It was very much a contest at that point, and remained so until late in the third quarter when Siskiyous took physical control of the game.
"It looked like two very even teams until the fourth quarter, and then we just got outexecuted on both sides of the ball and on special teams," Young said.