Arquel Rogers looks ready to take on a larger role this season, after sharing the load a year ago with Modesto High teammate James Ingram.
With Ingram having graduated, Rogers had a role in virtually every aspect of the Panthers' 48-36 win over Pitman -- a season-opener between two of The Bee's top teams. It was one of 15 games highlighting the earliest start of the season in district history.
Modesto, No. 2 in the Stanislaus District behind only Buhach Colony, had more than 400 yards of offense against the No. 6 Pride on the new artificial turf at Debely Stadium.
The Panthers backed up the claim that they are at the top of the Modesto Metro Conference, while Pitman showed it has the offensive talent to compete for the Central California Conference crown.
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Rogers rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns, had a 48-yard touchdown catch and returned a kickoff for another score -- and was producing a big play anytime the Pride got too close.
Quarterback Klayton Miller kept Pitman from focusing too much on Rogers by running for 94 yards and passing for 120, hitting 7 of 10 for two scores.
With 2:51 to play and leading 41-36, Miller hit Rogers with a 43-yard pass to the Pitman 10 and then Miller ran it in on the next play. Matt Avila then intercepted a Pitman pass in the final minute. Miller's touchdown pass in the final seconds of the first half had given Modesto a 27-23 lead.
There was plenty of offense on Pitman's side, too, and the highly anticipated battle between Rogers and Dominick Walker didn't disappoint.
Walker had 18 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns, as the Pride had 446 yards offense, and A.J. Derr was 6-of-10 for 105 yards in his quarterback debut.
The Pride spread the ball between four backs -- Andy Mendez had 12 carries for 56 yards -- but Walker is clearly the most potent of the group.
WINLESS TO PERFECT -- Turlock and Ceres didn't win a game between them a year ago, going 0-20 and giving up bushels of points. No one is worrying about a winless season this fall, though, because they're too busy talking about their running backs:
Ceres uncovered a potential game-breaker in Zach Naylor (141 yards), whose 71-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter snapped a 15-all tie for a 22-15 win over Ripon.
Turlock received a pleasant surprise with the debut of Ricky Fuentes, who missed his junior year with a broken leg. He's clearly healthy, running for 170 yards and catching a 48-yard touchdown from Kevin Kramer to beat Downey 33-30 in the inaugural Modesto Kickoff Classic. Downey was within 20-6 in the third quarter, but Fuentes darted up the middle, broke left and zipped clear for an 80-yard score.
ENOCHS 35, SIERRA 25 -- Do-everything running back Donnavan Johnson is gone, but the Eagles believe they've got a capable replacement in Herbert Whitehurst. Sierra's got to agree after Friday.
Whitehurst ran for two second-half touchdowns -- after scoring in the first half -- part of a 21-0 run that rallied Enochs from a 25-14 halftime deficit. His 16 carries led to 134 yards.
Enochs' defense struggled in the second quarter, giving up all 25 points. That included two touchdown passes by Adrian Valencia, 16 yards to Ruben Lopez and 31 yards to Grant Widmer in the final minute.
A SECOND IMPRESSION -- Andrew Olson's debut didn't leave folks with the favorable impression he was hoping for a year ago. Promoted to varsity and into the lineup for Week 10, following an injury to Hilmar's starting quarterback, Olson was overmatched in losses to potent Patterson and Escalon.
The junior got a second opportunity to make an impression in the season opener against Beyer, and he made good. He tossed a 25-yard touchdown to Ryan White, ran another in from 10 yards and keyed Hilmar's 17-14 win over the Patriots -- the first time in the modern era of Hilmar football it has played a Division 1 school.
Olson, taking snaps out of the shotgun in the spread offense, was 8-of-14 for 97 yards and ran 12 times for 46 yards.
LIVINGSTON 60, ORESTIMBA 20, at Livingston -- Four touchdowns in a minute? That spoke volumes about the opener between these West Side teams, as the Wolves used a 30-point opening quarter for the runaway win over the Warriors.
Charles Brown scored on a 30-yard run, then Brian Alvarez flipped a 33-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Deol after Orestimba fumbled on its first play. After Ramone Pious returned the kickoff 78 yards for a touchdown, Brown went 44 yards for his second touchdown in a minute on the next play from scrimmage.
Orestimba had a chance to keep things close at the half, when Mike King scored on a 9-yard run with 3:02 left in the second quarter. King's touchdown and a two-point conversion brought Orestimba within 30-20, but it got no closer.
"That first quarter was a lot of fun," said Brown, who ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns. "It just shows we were ready for the season. That's exactly how we needed to come out."
The Livingston defense had three sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception.
YOUNG AND EAGER -- One of the area's oldest programs is also one of its youngest this season, as Oakdale had five sophomores in the lineup during its 56-20 win over defending State Small School Bowl champion Modesto Christian.
Sophomore quarterback Spencer Thomas threw two touchdowns as the Mustangs led 49-6 after three quarters.
"I was pretty happy with the sophomores and the way they played," coach Trent Merzon said. "It was a big-time atmosphere with Modesto Christian coming and such a big crowd for the game."
It was the first-ever meeting between the two, and they have a tentative agreement to have a rematch next season.
"I enjoy playing a program like MC and (Raymond Nelson) is the best I've coached against in my 11 years here," Merzon said. "We had 3,500, 4,000 people. Our side was full and MC's was three-quarters full. We've got a lot of respect for what they brought over. If they're interested, we'd love to play them again next year."
McNAIR 26, JOHANSEN 20 -- Armando Hernandez passed for 196 yards and two touchdowns, and Preston Lee ran for 105 yards, but the Vikings let a second-half lead slip away and lost in overtime. Michael Brown (5 catches, 155 yards, TD) was Hernandez's favorite target, but the Vikings failed to convert a fourth-and-goal pass on their first overtime possession. Stagg scored on its first overtime play to get the win.
A WINNING DEBUT -- Waterford's Todd Sevick didn't have to wait long to celebrate his inaugural coaching victory with the Wildcats. Wade Hawkins, who missed parts of last season with injuries, threw three touchdowns during a 35-6 win over rival Riverbank.
Sevick, whose earlier stops included Enochs and Johansen, also got a big night from Dylan Gonzalez (119 yards rushing, 40 yards receiving and two TDs). Andrew Walker also ran for 66 yards as the 'Cats got six yards per carry.
Bee news services contributed to this report.