Modesto Junior College freshman quarterback Luke Weaver scrambles during a 26-25 loss to Laney College on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, at Modesto Junior College. (Diego Hernandez)

Finishing woes: Laney rallies past Modesto JC with a fourth-quarter flurry

James Burns

Modesto Junior College’s NASCAR offense revved on all cylinders early during Saturday’s season opener against Laney, but it wasn't enough to stave off defeat.

It was Laney that proved unstoppable in the end, outscoring the Pirates 16-7 in the fourth quarter to secure a thrilling come-from-behind victory, 26-25. The Eagles escaped Modesto with a last-minute touchdown and two-point conversion.

The Pirates outgained the Eagles 414-297, including promising debuts by true freshmen Luke Weaver and Aiden Taylor, and won the battle of first downs (25-18) and time of possession. However, the Eagles won the only category that mattered on Saturday evening: fourth-quarter scoring, 16-7.

Weaver, a tall, strong-armed quarterback from East Union High, completed 18 of his 31 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns. His top target was sophomore Jacob DeJesus (Manteca High), who turned nine catches into 158 yards and a touchdown. DeJesus gave MJC a 25-18 lead with a little over a minute left, slicing his way down the middle of the Eagles’ secondary.

Modesto Junior College sophomore wide receiver Jacob DeJesus celebrates a touchdown reception during a 26-25 loss to Laney College on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2022. DeJesus led all players with nine receptions, 158 yards and a touchdown. (Diego Hernandez)

Taylor, the 2021 player of the year after leading Central Catholic to a CIF State bowl appearance, led the team in carries (19) and yards (69) with one touchdown. Taylor spurned a walk-on opportunity at the University of Washington to take a star turn in MJC’s electric offense.

For three quarters, the script favored the host Pirates, who outscored Laney 12-0 over the second and third quarters. MJC led 18-10 going into the fourth quarter.

Laney, however, dominated down the stretch and didn't flinch when DeJesus burst into the end zone with the go-ahead touchdown with a little more than a minute left. Jacob Harris carried just 10 times in the game, but averaged 10.2 yards per carry and finished with a game-high 122 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Demontre Thomas struggled to stretch the field, averaging about 6 yards per completion. He offset his throwing woes, though, with 38 rushing yards and a TD.