The MSJC football team will kick off the 2011 season on Saturday night at College of the Desert hoping to build on the momentum created at the end of last season when the Eagles won their final four games. MSJC finished the 2010 campaign with a 6-4 overall record and a 4-1 mark in the Mountain Conference.
This year's team features a nice mix of experience and talented newcomers. Returning quarterback Nigel Barksdale started all 10 games for MSJC a season ago throwing for nearly 1,500 yards and rushing for over 500. "His leadership and experience is definitely something we really value," said Eagle head coach Casey Mazzotta. The biggest hole to fill on offense this season will be the running back spot vacated by All Stater Franex Dort. Dort was fourth in the state last year in rushing yards with 1,261. "He will be hard to replace, but I think we have four guys who are all capable," added Mazzotta. The offensive line is a big strong athletic group according to Mazzotta with experience, the key will be staying healthy. The group is led by returning First Team All Conference tackle Gage Niemeyer. Assisting the offensive line and catching passes will be the Eagles other returning first team all conference player tight end Perris Scoggins. Scoggins caught 16 balls as a freshman for 218 yards. The wide receiving crew is much improved from a year ago according to Mazzotta with returner Chris Robinson leading the way. Robinson had 18 catches for 195 yards in 2010.
MSJC's defense will also be a mixed group of returners and newcomers. The defensive line will be young with the exception of Brian Malone and Mike Chaparosa. Malone had 26 tackles as a freshman during the 2009 season and returns after sitting out in 2010. Chaparosa had 10 tackles last season. The line backing crew will be the most inexperienced on the team as a number of freshman will be looked to for playing time. By contrast the defensive backfield will have a wealth of experience led by three returning starters in Justin Johnson, Dennis Fite, and Emanuel Hamilton. Hamilton was named all state last season as a return specialist. Fite recorded 37 tackles as a freshman and had an interception, while Johnson was in on 24 stops.
The Eagles will also have to replace second team all conference place kicker Jameson Schultz. The duties will fall on redshirt freshman Jaime Lucio.
Coach Mazzotta is hoping this year's team can take that extra step that could lead to a conference title, after finishing one game behind San Bernardino Valley a year ago. "Coming off a second place finish the next logical goal is to become conference champions." "Until somebody in our conference beats San Bernardino they are definitely the team to beat."
The Eagles will follow Saturday's game in Palm Desert with three straight home games including two being played at Vista Murrieta High School. September 10th the Eagles will host Chaffey in their home opener at Vista with kick off set for 6 pm.
All State running back Franex Dort (photo) is gone, but optimism remains as the MSJC football team opens their season on Saturday night in Palm Desert when they take on College of the Desert at 6 pm. (photo by DeeAnn Bradley/MSJC)