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MJC Football Preview: Local players ready for tough conference play
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Connor Sosa, who recently graduated from Denair High, is one of eight local players who hope to make an immediate impact on this year's MJC Pirate football squad. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

After concluding their season last year at 4-6, the Modesto Junior College football program looks to the return of All-League quarterback Teejay Gordon of East Union High in Manteca as a path to success for 2013.

“Last year we lost some really close games considering how tough our conference is. But with Teejay returning for a second year after doing so well, we should be okay,” MJC football head coach Sam Young said. “Four out of five teams from our conference went on to play in a bowl game if that tells you anything about how competitive our conference is.”

The MJC Pirates, who are part of the Northern California Football Association, started out the season at 4-2 but in the stretch lost four consecutive crucial games to end the year just short of the postseason. Seven of the ten teams they faced, went on to the playoffs.

“You have to play high level football for all four quarters and you can’t make mistakes as far as offensive turnovers or defensive miscues,” Young said. “We needed to play crucial football at times and couldn’t come away on top but we are doing everything in our power to emphasize on the little things to work on for this year.”

The offensive line will see a complete overhaul after losing four of the five starting linemen from last year. The only returner in the offensive line will be Brandon Jurevich, a former Turlock Bulldog, who will be starting at tackle, says Coach Young.

“The line is always a challenge as far as size goes and losing four of our starters, but we have trained very well and things look good in drills and I feel we will be okay in there,” Young said.

Gordon is coming off a stellar first year throwing for 23 touchdowns along with 2,777 passing yards and a completion percentage of 64. Ricky Fuentes, 2011 Turlock High graduate, will be the top receiver and favorite target for Gordon, Young says, especially after grabbing 54 catches last year.

“Gordon also plays running back sometimes and is our returner. He is the slot receiver. Those two guys are real standouts for us and looking into a leadership year,” Coach Young said about Gordon and Fuentes.

In addition to two Turlock High alumni, two former Pitman Pride players will be key contributors. Jaime Lemus will be playing outside linebacker and Haydin Baldwin, will be the backup QB.

From Hilmar High, 2012 graduate Tyler Junker returns for his second year at defensive line. Also from Hilmar, John Brindeiro will join the squad for his first year this fall. Other locals on the Pirates roster include 2013 Delhi High grad Joseph Cantu, who will be playing inside linebacker and Connor Sosa, a safety from Denair.

“We feel well prepared. The kids have been working hard all offseason and we are looking forward to getting the year started. We’re very proud of being a local community college and it is our emphasis on developing our players,” Young said..

The Pirates will open the season on the road against Merced College 7 p.m. Sept. 7.