MJC opens conference

Given a little time, say two weeks, adjustments can not only be made, but perfected.

The Modesto Junior College football team opens Golden Gate Conference play tonight against Hartnell, rejuvenated by changes made during the bye week and exalting a fresh outlook.

It's the first time in a month the Pirates will play in front of a home crowd, one just as eager to see a victory this season. Modesto's only win came in Gilroy on Sept. 8, a 44-14 decision over Gavilan.

Hartnell is in equal need of alignment after an 0-5 start. The Panthers have been outscored 204-89.

While the Pirates haven't had quite as much trouble scoring, they haven't been able to stop anyone, either.

Modesto coach Sam Young said there is no clear-cut conference favorite -- Chabot and Diablo Valley are 2-3, Los Medanos is 2-2 and West Hills hasn't won yet.

"We're in a situation where nobody really showed any dominance in the preseason," Young said. "The bye came at an opportune time for us because it gave us a chance to get healthy and evaluate our approach."

Marquell Colston has been one constant for the Pirates. He's scored six touchdowns, run for 378 yards on 75 carries and caught 15 passes for 267 yards -- all team highs.

Colston should get some pressure taken off him this week as running backs Stephen Ortega and Willie Mumford return from shoulder injuries.

Kicker Edgar De La Cruz is 9-for-10 on point-after kicks. The Pirates have attempted field goals only twice -- both times they were unsuccessful.

Quarterback Chad Draper isn't having as flashy a season as he had as a freshman, but Young pointed out Draper's high completion percentage (he's completed 99 of 164 passes, 60 percent) shows his accuracy, and he's averaging 248.2 yards passing per game.

The Pirates are hoping the "good offense is the best defense" theory rings true.

They didn't control the ball as they would have liked in the first five games, keeping the defense on the field for extended periods of time. Modesto's time of possession is an average of 19 minutes, 57 seconds per game.

"We've been in positions where we got the ball in the red zone and we were not as efficient as we should have been," Young said. "It's all interconnected. If we control the ball, the defense doesn't have to play as much."