Some would say that the Modesto Junior College football season comes down to one game: the game against Fresno City College.
Teams are constantly battling for the coveted Valley Conference top spot, leading the winner to the state playoffs.
The Pirates (5-2) and Rams (6-1) face off this Saturday at 6 p.m. with Modesto ranked sixth and Fresno seventh in the most recent version of the JC Athletic Bureau coaching poll.
The Pirates’ game plan begins with defense. Fresno quarterback Justin Holaday is a complete talent who has the ability to throw with precision and athleticism to make plays with his legs if the receivers aren’t initially opened. Holaday threw for 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed for 327 yards and 10 other scores.
“Scrambling quarterbacks like this are really hard to contain because high school does its job and all of a sudden it takes off and shakes things up,” said MJC coach Rusty Stivers. “He’s able to either run for the first down or rush and throw for the first downs. “
The weapons of Holaday are endless. He throws to five main receivers, three who have 190 or more receiving yards and two touchdowns. Outside the backfield, the Rams have running back Jeff Green Jr., who carried the ball 38 times for 211 yards and one touchdown since his first game this season on Oct. 2.
“You’re trying to figure out what they’ve been most successful with and that’s where you start,” Stivers said of how they build a defensive game plan. “(We’re trying) to downplay the quarterback’s creativity.”
The Pirates’ quick offense in their 65-14 win over West Hills is here to stay. Stivers says the team found a way to run a few plays in the offense faster and without a huddle and change the pace for a slower style of play.
“Sometimes you want to go fast, sometimes you want to change gears,” Stivers said of the way the attack plays out. “There were times (last week against Reedley) where we went really fast. Sometimes we just sailed and there were times we were going really slow. So I was really happy with the pace.
Still, Pirates are a hefty offense. They average 238 rushing yards per game, but will face a stingy Rams defense that allows just 87 yards.
“Historically, Fresno is tough to face,” Stivers said. “We’re spending a lot of time this week figuring out how to move the ball both running and throwing.”