Ice-baths and trophies punctuated a happy end to the Modesto Junior College football season.
Coach Sam Young got wet as he and quarterback Greg Panelli clutched trophies, the harvest Saturday afternoon of the Pirates' 54-13 dismantling of San Jose in the 17th Graffiti Bowl.
"It was just our day," Young said. "It was probably our best played game."
Panelli, 20 for 25 for 234 yards and three touchdowns, was named the game's most valuable player. He spiced his usually accurate short game with some crisp downfield throws for an MJC team (7-4) that led 21-0 barely nine minutes after the kickoff.
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The former Orestimba star and 24 fellow sophomores walk away from MJC with two Graffiti victories, 15 on-the-field wins and a 2008 Golden Gate Conference title.
Not bad overall for a team that agonized over missing a third straight league crown. A crowd of about 1,000 at MJC Stadium, including about 100 from the South Bay, witnessed cheerleaders dancing to oldies and the Pirates' old-fashioned woodshed job on the Jaguars.
"We're a good team that couldn't finish a couple of games," said linebacker Keith Yamamoto, the conference MVP on defense, after he dealt three hours of punishment on the Jaguars. "Everyone knew this was a last chance to prove a point. I think we showed we could win a big game when we had to."
San Jose (7-4), making its first bowl appearance in 12 years, staggered out of the gate. Modesto's first touchdown, an 11-yard sweep by Nick Batteate to cap the Pirates' opening series, was followed seconds later by a thunderbolt from the defense.
Tyson Palacios gathered in a loose ball stripped from the arms of Jaguar running back Kendrickus Reed and, surrounded by an armada of helpers, stepped 5 yards for the touchdown. The officials, not sure if the ball should have been blown dead before the fumble, eyeballed each other before they raised their arms.
"You've got to give (Palacios) credit for finishing the play and letting the officials try to sort it out," Young said.
"All my teammates were pushing me. I thought that people were trying to tackle me," Palacios said.
Stefan Palacio then scooped up a fumble caused by Oliver Pryor's sack and returned 12 yards to the San Jose 18. On the next play, Panelli faked a quick screen, MJC's pet play, and tossed to a quite alone Mike Ward for the first of his two scoring TD receptions.
"We wanted to dominate the game right away," Panelli said. "Our defense gave us some turnovers and set the tempo."
All aspects of MJC's offense, which merges well-timed horizontal throws with a powerful rushing attack, clicked. Cody Ball and Casey Cotta pounded into the secondary as Modesto rushed for 194 yards and outgained San Jose 428-272.
San Jose's only steady offense was generated by Reed, a rangy 214-pound tailback from Missouri, who totaled 156 yards on 21 carries. His 47-yard dash to the end zone put the Jaguars on the scoreboard, but he managed only seven yards after halftime.
San Jose thought its season was over after a loss last week at De Anza. In fact, several players turned in their equipment before it received the surprise bid.
"We were excited to be here. It was a good thing for our program," coach Carlton Connor said. "Modesto's screen game is probably one of the best I've seen."
One of the best was receiver Vince Andrews (5 receptions, 73 yards), a converted defensive back who succeeded 2008 star Marcus Allen (New Mexico State) as Panelli's prime-time connection. The Pirates even deployed Andrews for a kickoff return, which resulted in an 82-yarder to set up a touchdown seconds into the second half.
"Since this was the end of the line, we decided to give him a shot," Young said.
Freshman Donovan Wallace of Riverbank, another revelation, juggled and caught a screen pass in traffic and piggybacked tacklers 10 yards for a touchdown and a 40-7 lead.
All there was left to do was drench the coaches and reach for the trophies.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2302