A year ago, Kane Rodgers and Cameron Cherry were among the top returning high school football players in the Stanislaus District.
Today, they're soon-to-be teammates and members of another star-studded recruiting class at Modesto Junior College.
"We go after the best available players, but every year there are specific areas of need we really focus in on and pay special attention to," said Kirk Peterson, MJC's recruiting coordinator. "It seems like we are always looking for defensive backs and linemen with college size for example."
The Pirates found both in this latest class.
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MJC's list of recent commitments reads like a Modesto Bee All-District honor roll, headlined by Sonora High's Rodgers and Oakdale Oakdale High's Cherry, Highway 120 rivals who dazzled under Friday night lights.
With his explosive versatility, Rodgers was ranked No. 1 in The Bee's list of the top-50 returning high school football players. However, the reigning Mother Lode League MVP tore his ACL against Calaveras and missed the final nine games of his senior season.
It was an anticlimactic ending to a career that began with a bang. In 2015, Rodgers tied a school record with 12 interceptions as the Wildcats stormed to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V crown and hosted their first-ever CIF Northern California regional bowl.
MJC coach Rusty Stivers says Rodgers will likely reprise his role as a do-everything type. Stivers will test Rodgers and his reconstructed knee at safety and slot receiver.
Cherry's versatility will also be tested.
The running back was ranked No. 6 on The Bee's list of top returners and became the 12th Stanislaus District player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
He led the district with 2,154 yards and 30 total touchdowns, guiding the Mustangs to a Valley Oak League title and an appearance in the Division III section final.
Cherry, a MaxPreps all-section selection, will compete for reps behind sophomore running back Devan Bass, while rotating into the slot position.
His carries will come, Peterson said.
"Because we play at such a fast pace, there are games where we run close to 100 plays," Peterson said. "That means having a stable of quality backs is vital if we want to keep guys fresh and healthy for the entire season."
Modesto Junior College has also received commitments from 2017 Mother Lode League MVP Jack Camara, a hard-hitting linebacker from Sonora; Western Athletic Conference Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman David Serrano, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound road-grader from Central Valley; and Sonora lineman Otutoa Afu, the Mother Lode's co-Most Outstanding Lineman.
The Pirates also welcome Beyer defensive end/wide receiver Brandon Gray, a first-team all-Modesto Metro Conference selection. Gray is one of the top two-sport athletes in the Stanislaus District. He also played a starring role for a Beyer boys basketball team that reached the Division III final this winter.
Modesto Christian's Rory Hanson might be the most intriguing recruit. The 6-5 Hanson began his prep career as a quarterback, but transitioned to wide receiver following a rocky start this past fall.
With soft hands and long body, Hanson quickly became the Crusaders' top target. He had 18 catches for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
Stivers will groom Hanson, whom he calls "the best kept secret in the valley," as an H-back in his "NASCAR" offense.
"Rory fits the measurables for the highest level and now needs to learn the H position," Stivers said. "Rory needs to learn how to block in the box and handle defenders on the perimeter.
"He also needs to learn pass concepts and run routes. Once he gets those reps, he should excel."
A closer look at a few of the Modesto Junior College football program's incoming freshmen:
Cameron Cherry, running back, Oakdale
Kane Rodgers, safety/slot, Sonora
David Serrano, lineman, Central Valley
Otutoa Afu, lineman, Sonora
Jack Camera, linebacker, Sonora
Rory Hanson, tight end, Modesto Christian
Brandon Gray, defensive end/wide receiver, Beyer