Sam Young has been the head coach of Modesto Junior College football for two decades now, guiding the Pirates to many unforgettable memories. During this run, he has kept something important in mind.
He likes to keep it local — or very close to that.
That means when he’s looking for prospects, he doesn’t search very far. He likes to stay closer to Modesto. And anyone who knows how to use MapQuest knows that Turlock isn’t too far away, which helps explain the impact the city’s homegrown talent has made on the 7-3 Pirates, who will face 8-2 Diablo Valley College in today’s Graffiti Bowl at MJC Stadium at 1 p.m.
“I’m really proud to be a local community college,” Young said.
He adds that it’s not unusual for his Pirates to go up against squads with rosters that can be compared to upper-division schools, which are filled with out-of-state players. It’s not like that for MJC, which only lists three names that aren’t from California out of an 80-plus roster. Everyone is within driving distance.
That list also includes graduates from Pitman High, Turlock High and Hilmar High schools. Two of them — Pitman’s Stefan Palacio (sophomore inside linebacker) and Turlock’s Dillon Scholler (sophomore safety) — were named to the All-Valley Conference team, along with MJC quarterback Devin Combs, a nearby product of Oakdale High.
Scholler’s recognition is especially meaningful since he had a season-ending shoulder injury in the regular-season finale against San Joaquin Delta on Nov. 13.
“He made an impression on all the other coaches,” Young said of Scholler’s ability to secure all-conference votes despite not playing a full year.
Though they didn’t get acknowledged by their conference, other Turlock area players also had solid contributions for the Pirates.
Markus Sanders, a freshman out of Pitman, has been an “everything type of back for us. He’s the guy who gets tough things done for us,” Young said. Eddie Flores, a freshman from Turlock, is “a special teams demon,” while Pitman graduates Matt Lavender and Ricky Eckert and Hilmar’s Donovan Smith have all played vital roles throughout the season.
These players have been part of a Pirates team that came up short of a Northern California championship appearance. But the players and coaches intend to take the 18th Graffiti Bowl seriously, especially playing in front of a large home crowd.
“The guys from this area are my guys,” Young said. “We try to play high-caliber football with local talent.”
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