The 2013 Modesto Junior College football season was a 'roller coaster ride' as described by head coach Sam Young.
After a 2-0 start the team lost their next three contests, only to end the regular season with a 5-5 record to be even at .500, which was good enough for a second place finish in the Valley League that is part of the Northern California Football Association and a postseason berth.
“It was a roller coaster of a season,” said Young. “We also had the toughest schedule in Northern California for community colleges and that made it tough for us. But we were pleased with the resilience of the team and we played tough down the stretch, and I was happy with how the team handled ups and downs.”
The MJC Pirates would cap off the year ranked 16th in state after defeating Santa Rosa in the Golden Valley Bowl to conclude the year at 6-5.
After a rewarding year that included eight All-Conference players on both defense and offense, Young looks ahead to the future with only two returners in Chris Souza and Anthony Cota for the 2014 year. The new looking Pirates welcome three former Pitman High stars in Aaron Lusher, Justin Van Fleet and Wyatt Clapper.
Lusher is expected to start at right guard and Van Fleet should see major playing time as the team’s backup inside linebacker. Clapper is expected to redshirt in his first year and really learn the system to prepare for the following season, Young said.
Cota was a 1,000 yard rusher a season ago while Souza made his presence clear on the field, playing hard and physical football, making numerous big blocks throughout the season to help clear the field for Cota.
Even though the team returns two standouts on the offense side of the ball, the defense will look to anchor the 2014 squad, Young said.
“I think on the whole, our experience is on defense. Last year it was offense,” said Young.
A big question mark for the Pirates this upcoming year will be at the quarterback position with Joseph Legerrett-Luke and Spencer Thomas fighting to see who will get the most snaps from center.
“Both are impressive and we want to gather as much info and gather that by the end of the week. Both have strengths and weakness and we have yet to come to a conclusion,” Young said.
The new season always seems to bring questions to a new looking team but Young and his staff are very confident that this team will fight till the end — much like his previous teams.
“I am like a broken record. It’s all about getting better today and that little individual improvement grows and flourishes every day. If the process goes through it all takes care of itself,” said Young. “I think that you just never know how things will happen because when you feel like you have a good team everyone else seems to have a great team.
“Our goals is we’re trying to show improvement in all phases — defense, offense and special teams — in every day we’re looking to execute on the scoreboard every day,” he added. “We’re trying to improve on communication and to improve and see what happens.”
A big difference for this year is the postseason format. The playoffs will now include three league games in the National conference, which will now add three additional bowl games.