The 2017 Modesto Junior College football team is loaded with players from Turlock surrounding areas.
As of Tuesday, a total of 13 players from Turlock, Pitman and Delhi High make up the 80 players on the Pirates roster, with some of the difference makers local talent.
Expectations couldn't be any higher for head coach Rusty Stivers, who knows that the three incoming stars will mix well with the returners and other new members to the squad.
Danny Velasquez (Turlock), Mustafa Noel-Johnson (Turlock) and Pitman's Devan Bass lead the incoming freshmen squad in hopes of accomplishing a unique season and experience prior to embarking on their individual career paths.
Delhi's Jesse Flores is joining the newcomers, along with Turlock's Dom Silva and Pitman's Adrian Marquez.
“Defensively I think Mustafa is the most talented player. I think he will be a better college player than he was at high school,” said Stivers. “And now I can say the best offensive player in the area, Danny Velasquez, he is our No. 1 offensive recruit and it almost feels like we are trying to find a new position for him.”
According to Stivers, Velasquez is able to play multiple positions on the field including wide receiver, running back and quarterback.
“He is all wrapped in one. The thing with (Velasquez and Noel-Johnson) is that they are hardworking, low-ego guys and makes it so much fun and easy to work with guys like that,” said Stivers. “Our focus is to give the ball to Danny in open space as our primary objective.”
The other locals already on the team include Turlock's Chris Silva, Alan 'Bear' Padilla, Jeff Hines and Jericho Taamu. Pitman has Jason Foglia, Donovan Bravo and kicker Adrian DelaRiva.
Another player that Stivers is expecting to make an immediate impact is Bass.
“The best two-way player and the one who can play on both sides, kind of like a Deion Sanders type player is Devan Bass,” said Stivers of the Pitman prospect. “Even though he is tall and small, he fits in great as defensive coverage, and shuts people down... just pure instinct. Those three guys, my goodness they are a lot of fun.”
MJC is coming off a stellar first year with Stivers as head coach.
The team accumulated a record of 8-3, going a perfect 5-0 in conference league games. They earned a berth in the postseason, reaching the CCCAA Football Northern California semifinal game before falling to American River 27-21 on Nov. 19, 2016. That MJC squad averaged 37.4 points per game while allowing 26.6. They averaged 461.1 yards per game while allowing 423.2.
With such a successful season, the priority for Stivers has and will continue to be helping his players pursue their education and football career by attending and being offered scholarships to a respective university.
“I do feel like Mustafa and Danny were able to transfer out of high school, but if they continue to progress the way I think they are, they can leave at any time,” said Stivers. “December or spring, and when recruiters come through, they are looking for guys that can leave right away.”
Also look for the offensive line to be one of the biggest and most dominant in the state.
“On offense, we have three massive guys returning on o-line,” Stivers added. “Those areas are the strength, trenches are where we have most experience. We haven't had much size, usually outmatched in trenches, but this year we feel we can match up with people in the box, good start.”
The Pirates will begin their season on the road with a Blue and White Scrimmage against Tuolumne City at 1 p.m. Saturday. Their first home appearance is 6 p.m. Aug. 24 for a Merced College Scrimmage.