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Notebook: Sanders shines for Sierra
Local alumni lead MJC to season-opening win
Sierra receiver Bryson Sanders tries to break away from Tracy Highs Jacob Alvarado during their zero-week contest on Aug. 30. - photo by Photo by WAYNE THALLANDER

We knew Sierra’s Bryson Sanders would be one of quarterback Jake Pruitt’s favorite targets.

What’s not to love?

Sanders has the requisite DNA for a wide receiver in a pass-happy spread offense. He stands 6 feet, 2 inches and has a rebounder’s mentality when catching the football.

If it’s thrown in his direction, chances are Sanders will reel it in.

Just ask Zach Magana.

On Friday, Sanders was one of the Davis quarterback’s top reads, too.

Sanders (11 catches, 112 yards, one touchdown) picked Magana off twice, returning one 67 yards for a touchdown.

He very nearly celebrated a second pick-6 in the fourth quarter – and third total touchdown – but he was pushed out before he could reach the pylon.

In honor of Sanders’ almost-touchdown, here are the highlights that just missed Saturday and Monday’s papers:

• • •

The Knights’ shining armor

What’s the more impressive stat from Ripon Christian’s 69-6 victory over Elliot Christian Friday: Andrew Brown’s six first-half touchdowns, or the defense’s six points allowed?

It was indeed a virtuoso performance by Brown, the reigning Southern League MVP, but the defense sparkled in its season debut against a 2012 playoff team.

The Knights (1-0) limited Elliot Christian to 107 yards of offense, with most of those yards coming with the game well out of reach in the second half. Elliot Christian was 1-of-19 passing for just 19 yards and two interceptions.

Keagan Rivera had one of those picks, a juggling act down field. The coaching staff gave a game ball to Kevin Kramer, who had six solo tackles, a sack for a 10-yard loss and a 13-yard interception return for a touchdown.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen our offense consistently scoring,” RC coach Randy Fasani said. “Now coach (Eddie) Erdelatz has made it a goal for the defense to keep offenses from scoring at all, so they have high expectations as a defensive unit.”

RC is in for a real test Friday versus Ripon. The Indians have outscored their opponents 93-0 in two games.

• • •

Shammas kicking it on football team

Ripon Christian’s Bashar Shammas came to America a gifted soccer and basketball player. American football was about as foreign to him as the city he now called home.

Case in point: Shammas, an exchange student from Syria, hadn’t seen an American football game until three months ago.

Now look at him.

A standout on Ripon Christian’s special teams units, Shammas handled kicking and kick return duties during Friday’s 69-6 win over Elliot Christian.

He averaged 47 yards on nine kickoffs – with a long of 59 yards – and totaled 125 return yards on six punts and two kickoffs. Shammas was also 7 of 8 on extra points.

His role could expand with his knowledge of the game. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Shammas is listed as a wide receiver and defensive back, and with his natural athletic ability, he could be another weapon for Fasani to use.

“I was questioning whether he’d be able to control his emotions and play well,” Fasani said. “He definitely proved that he’s going to be a huge part of our team this season. … It was a good confidence-builder game for Bashar.”

• • •

Flash Gordon leads MJC football

The Modesto Junior College offense didn’t receive high-praise from head coach Sam Young following Saturday’s 46-13 win at Merced.

“We just didn’t execute like we have in practice,” Young told the Merced Sun-Star.

That’s how high the bar is set for sophomore quarterback Teejay Gordon and his attack-from-everywhere spread offense.

The East Union alum accounted for nearly 380 yards of offense and three touchdowns in the victory, including 329 through the air. He was 26 of 39 with touchdown strikes to Chris Souza and Jake McCreath (Ripon).

Gordon also had a 9-yard scoring run.

His 21-yard pass to McCreath was part of a 17-0 spurt in the fourth quarter that iced the game.

But he and the offense were stung by first-game jitters early. Young said Gordon appeared “a little tight,” he told the Sun-Star. It wasn’t until the dual-threat QB started improvising, scrambling away from pressure and creating on the fly that “Teejay started being Teejay.”

• • •

Sierra alum Cota shines for Pirates

Anthony Cota hasn’t forgotten how to find the end zone.

The record-setting running back from Sierra made a splash in his collegiate debut Saturday night in Merced. Cota scored two rushing touchdowns as Modesto Junior College pulled away from its ancient rival.

Cota arrived at MJC as part of a heralded freshman class that also included Los Banos 2,000-yard back James Sams and joined a backfield with established talent in Marcus Hernandez (Oakdale) and Ricky Fuentes (Turlock).

It’s clear, though, that he’s earned the trust of  the coaching staff. 

Cota, who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior at Sierra, had game-highs in carries (17) and yards (88). The Pirates rushed for 301 yards as a team.

Cota scored the game’s first touchdown, capping a three-play, 71-yard opening drive with a 19-yard burst. He later tacked on a 9-yard scoring run on the Pirates’ first possession of the third quarter.