If you took the size of former Mustangs Jaidyn Sheetz, the power of Marcus Hernandez and the heart of Carlos DeLeon you might have the makings of a perfect football player. Together, the three have added to a talented Modesto Junior College team and have a ring to prove it.
At this point, all three former Mustangs are panning out for the Pirates and have strong potential to keep playing at the four-year college level after a 6-5 season that ended with a win in bowl play.
Coming into MJC, Hernandez had the strongest high school credentials of all three former Mustangs on M.J.C.’s roster after a standout career at running back and linebacker for OHS, but all the former Mustangs are on track to continue to play four years of college football.
“Marcus was our leading rusher as a freshman,” Sam Young, Modesto JC football coach said. “But since we have two freshman runners we moved him to linebacker and he’s the real sleeper of all our sophomores to go on.”
Young praised Hernandez’s physicality on the field and his unselfish play while moving to defense mid-season.
“He’s a very physical player who really helped us down the stretch,” Young said. “He has to do his part academically, but Marcus’s contributions to our program was underappreciated because he did a lot of things that didn’t show up in the stat sheet.”
Nevertheless, Hernandez had six tackles and a sack in his first game at defense and had double-digit tackle games in the Pirates late-season run to the Santa Rosa Bowl, along the way taking out American River in a wild 43-42 upset win at home against the state’s #3 ranked team.
“That was probably the most intense football game I’ve ever been involved in,” Jaidyn Sheetz, MJC’s freshman starting right tackle, said. “It was a back and forth game, the crowd was roaring, American River had former Oakdale player Blake Thompson playing long snapper so it was good to pull out the win.”
Freshman tailback Anthony Cota (Sierra H.S.) broke a 45-yard touchdown run to put the Pirates up 43-36 and after an American River missed PAT, MJC sent last year’s Nor-Cal finalists home with their first loss of the season, winning 43-42. Two games later, the Pirates closed out their season with a 48-39 triumph over host Santa Rosa in the Golden Valley Bowl to finish 6-5 and earn school rings.
“It was like winning a Section Title in high school,” Sheetz, a starting lineman on Oakdale’s 2012 state runner-up team, said. “Not a lot of teams get to finish their season with a win and we earned it after a penalty-marred fourth quarter in Santa Rosa.”
MJC was penalized for pass interference four times in the last 30 seconds of the game and Santa Rosa managed a late touchdown in front of its home fans, but could not pull off the win against a Pirate team that played its best football at the end of the season. The team banquet is on Jan. 13, where the roster will customize their Bowl rings.
Hernandez, who is finishing his third semester at MJC, is sending out highlight tapes along with Sheetz, and hopes to get looks at the Division I level.
The Pirate program is excited about the two Oakdale returners 6-0, 240 pound center Carlos DeLeon and the 6-5, 280 pound Sheetz. DeLeon, who sat out a season after high school to gain weight and strength, heads into his sophomore year anchoring Modesto’s line.
“Carlos calls out blocking schemes, pass protection and has a winning work ethic,” Young said. “For him to come back takes a lot of pressure off the staff because we don’t have to train somebody again to do his job...if he’s willing to go out of state he will find a place to play after his sophomore year.”
Young expects to see major strides in the off-season from Sheetz, a late bloomer who didn’t start on Oakdale until his senior season.
“Jaidyn showed a lot of growth during the course of year,” Young said. “He really improved each and every week and had his best games at the end of the year. He has a real upside and fits the profile of a mid-major Division I lineman if he can continue to improve his strength, footwork and takes cares of his academics.”