Fresno City College finally found its offense Saturday; the defense chimed in, too.
Rams running back Nate Jones dented Modesto for 207 yards and four touchdowns as Fresno City snapped a two-game skid by defeating the Pirates 55-42.
Fresno City tight end Bryan Hall had just three catches but two went for TDs. Defensively, the Rams sacked Modesto’s already banged-up QB Trey Cooper on successive plays and he missed most of the second half.
Both teams are 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the Valley Conference, with the Pirates now joining the Rams as conference and NorCal playoff outsiders.
Fresno City, however, is eligible with that fifth victory for a postseason bowl.
Modesto’s matchup issues with Fresno City – read: physically superior up front – returned like a bad cough. Equally important, the Rams refused to let Cooper dominate the game as he did last year, when Modesto recorded its first victory over the Rams since 1998.
For a few moments in the second half, Modesto was down to third-stringer Wyatt Clapper. Cooper, saddled with several bumps and bruises, did not practice this week and absorbed several hard blows. Backup Tiki Tonga was temporarily sidelined with a shoulder stinger.
“He (Cooper) is Tim Tebow,” Rams coach Tony Caviglia said. “You have to stop the quarterback in that style of offense. Our eyes had to be right.”
587 Fresno’s total yardage against Modesto
Fresno City delivered uncompromising terms from the opening kickoff. The Rams’ pro-set offense, with its blocking tight ends and fullbacks, a rarity in today’s pinball JC attacks, blocked the Pirates off the line all day. The result was five touchdowns in six possessions before halftime.
The Rams finished with 587 total yards.
Their opening 60-yard drive, capped by Jones’ first touchdown, was a harbinger. The Rams totaled 352 yards on the ground and produced a 13-minute time-of-possession edge. Modesto’s defense, which produced seven touchdowns over the first seven games, has given up 115 points in the past two.
“We didn’t come out ready to play,” said linebacker Justin VanFleet, one of the 31 sophomores recognized before the kickoff. “The running back (Jones) was pretty good, but I put it more on us than them.”
He (Cooper) is Tim Tebow. You have to stop the quarterback in that style of offense. Our eyes had to be right.
Fresno City coach Tony Caviglia
To add to the indignity, Jones – a former Tracy High star – was recruited by both Modesto and Delta. Fresno held the trump card, however, in defensive line coach Lyndell Hawkins, formerly of Tracy and Fresno State and Jones’ uncle.
“We were aware of what Jones could do,” Modesto coach Rusty Stivers said. “He was the highest-rated running back for us in the area.”
Jones scored on runs of 5, 28, 2 and 17 yards. The 28-yarder, a tackle-breaking burst on third-and-3, demonstrated the Rams’ overall strength.
Modesto added to its problems with a missed field goal, a blocked punt and a fumble, resulting in 14 Fresno City points.
Christian Rossi’s 69-yard pass to James Whitfield, alone after Modesto blew the coverage, left the Pirates reeling 45-21 late in the third quarter. Conversely, the Rams recorded their first game devoid of turnovers.
The Rams close the regular season next Saturday at 1 p.m. against Sequoias at Ratcliffe Stadium.
Fresno City 55, Modesto 42
Fresno City (5-4, 2-2)
Modesto (5-4, 2-2)
F: Nate Jones 5 run (Eddie Padilla kick)
M: Tim Knuettel 15 pass from Trey Cooper (Thomas Langley kick)
F: Bryan Hall 23 pass Christian Rossi (Padilla kick)
F: Jones 28 run (pass failed)
M: Aden Ruiz 3 run (Langley kick)
F: Bryan Hall 20 pass from Rossi. (Padilla kick)
F: Briquez Alvies 6 run (Padilla kick)
F: Jones 2 run (Padilla kick)
M: Donald White 15 run (Langley kick)
F: James Whitfield 69 pass from Rossi (Padilla kick)
M: Donald White 2 run. (Langley kick)
M: Tim Knuettel 33 pass from Tiki Tonga (Langley kick)
F: Nate Jones 17 run (Padilla kick)
M: David Martinez 16 pass from Cooper (Langley kick)
RUSHING: Fresno City, Jones 29-207, Alvies 21-133, Rossi 2-17, Bryant Fisher 1-(1), Team 3-(-4). Modesto, Donald White 5-84, David Martinez 3-25, Ravon Alexander 3-24, Aden Ruis 4-23, Andre Edwards 4-19, Tiki Tonga 8-18, Gabe Lindsey-Turner 1-7, Lovell Collins 1-6, Wyatt Clapper 1-(-4), Cooper 10-(-19).
PASSING: Fresno City, Rossi 11-13-0-235. Modesto, Cooper 17-23-0-239, Tonga 7-9-0-74, Alexander 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING: Fresno City, Kailon Carter 5-92, Hall 3-70, Whitfield 1-69, Dwine Walls 1-3, Jones 1-1. Modesto, Knuettel 8-144, Martinez 4-74, Greg Tripp 6-64, Alexander 3-24, Lovell Collins 1-3, Ronnie Holley 1-2, White 1-2.