Blue Devils have score to settle with Modesto Junior College

MC seeking redemption after last year's blowout

slynch@mercedsun-star.comSeptember 1, 2012 

Those who lived through the 2011 Gateway Bowl can only shake their heads.

In a season chock full of good, competitive football games for Merced College, the annual battle with Modesto Junior College was an aberration.

The Pirates knocked the Blue Devils off their feet early and never allowed them back up on a record-setting night in Modesto.

The stats were something out of a video game as MJC racked up 573 rushing yards -- 329 of them by Aaron Fields -- and 699 total yards in a 72-26 thrashing.

"It's just one of those games you have to let go," said sophomore defensive tackle Adron Collins. "You name it, we did it wrong that game.

"I just don't feel like we were ever mentally ready to play. Physically we were good to go, but we weren't focused enough."

The Blue Devils get their shot at revenge tonight when the teams meet in Modesto. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.

Last year, MJC basically used MC's aggressiveness against them, using draw plays to suck in the defensive line and force the linebackers to make tackles in 1-on-1 situations.

More often than naught, they weren't up to the task.

"It was embarrassing to be a part of," sophomore linebacker Brad Avila said. "They just took it too us and never let up.

"I plan on holding onto most of it, if not all of it heading into this one."

MC head coach Bob Casey doesn't want to focus on revenge or the rivalry, which Merced still holds an 18-16 edge despite losing four straight.

The third-year head coach just wants victories, and Modesto is the Blue Devils' first opportunity to get one.

"Last year was just one of those games that happens sometimes," Casey said. "They took advantage of some of our weaknesses and it just got away from us.

"They're a very different team than they were a year ago, so we just need to be worried about executing what we do."

The biggest change for the Pirates is sophomore quarterback Quinton McCown's late summer transfer to New Mexico. He'll be replaced by former East Union standout TeeJay Gordon.

What remains to be seen is whether Gordon can provide the same kind of run-pass balance that McCown did.

The other question mark is Fields, who has battled a groin injury entering the season and is questionable for the opener.

Regardless of a lot of turnover, MJC always finds athletes for its spread.

Former Turlock burner Ricky Fuentes joins the fold after a year off and former Oakdale star Marcus Hernandez will try his hand at the college game.

Former local stars Brian Perez (Livingston) and Andrew Morgan (Atwater) will look to lead MJC in their sophomore campaigns.

"We know they're always good. We know they always have athletes," Avila said. "We have athletes too. If our defense can go up against our offense everyday in practice, we feel like we're ready to go up against anyone."

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