By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Modesto jumped out to a large lead in the first half and held off Santa Rosa JC 48-39 in Saturday’s Golden Valley Bowl at Bailey Field.
The Pirates (6-5) put 36 points on the board before intermission and went to the locker room leading by 23.
Santa Rosa (6-5) scored the first two touchdowns in the third quarter to make the game interesting, but could get no closer than nine points.
“Early in the game we made so many mistakes, we couldn’t overcome it in the second half,” coach Lenny Wagner said. “It’s frustrating because most of the mistakes were on technique and we spend so much time practicing. It was not blocking properly and not tackling the right way.
“We did a much better job in the second half, but it was too late.”
Modesto gave the Bear Cubs plenty of chances to narrow the gap. The visitors fumbled the ball away six times and were penalized 18 times for 173 yards.
Modesto’s running game was the difference. The Pirates rushed for 444 yards while SRJC could muster only 88.
Anthony Cota led the way with 201 yards on 10 carries. He got 86 on a touchdown run early in the fourth quarter and scored on runs of 1 and 4 yards.
All six Pirates’ scores came on running plays. Quarterback Teejay Gordon had two and James Sams had the other. Sams rushed for 124 yards.
While Santa Rosa couldn’t get much going on the ground, the Bear Cubs did excel through the air.
Mike Pierson, who came off the bench to replace starter David Sowards, threw four touchdown passes. K’Lan Anderson and Logan Valencia each caught two.
Anderson also hauled in a scoring pass from Sowards.
The Bear Cubs amassed 452 passing yards compared with Modesto’s 234. Pierson, who played high school ball at El Molino, accounted for 281 of those yards.
It was Santa Rosa’s first bowl appearance since 2008 and it came in Wagner’s first year as head coach.