“13 of everything” is the motto that head coach Patrick Melton has instilled in his Americas Trail Blazers team during spring football. It was also the rallying cry of his 2016 team, which won a program-best nine games and advanced to the area round for only the second time in school history.
Entering into the 2017 season, the Blazers are back out on the field and hungry for more.
“We do 13 of everything from reps in the weight room, pushups between stations, stuff like that,” Melton said, “We want to get to that 13th win because that’s just our next stepping stone.”
In order to reach that goal, the Blazers have to replace 38 seniors from last year’s tri-district championship team including running back and UTEP-signee Josh Fields, who was among the state’s leaders in rushing yards last season.
Next in line is rising senior Tremaine Henderson, who moves back into the backfield full-time as a running back after spending most of last season as a wide receiver. Making the switch in positions doesn’t faze Henderson and is ready to take the reigns over from Fields in 2017.
“I’m just trying to get back in the flow of playing running back,” Henderson said, “Josh has also been helping me out get settled back in by helping me with blocks, reads and other stuff.”
The Blazers will also have a new signal-caller under center in quarterback Frank Melendez. He takes over for Cristian Estorga who served as a steady leader for the offense. Melendez, who started on the junior varsity squad as the quarterback, is ready to step in with the biggest lesson he’s learned during his first three years in the program.
“You always have to play with high intensity,” Melendez said, “You always have to get yourself going and you have to get your team going especially when things aren’t going your way. You have to have those traits to be a leader as a quarterback.”
This is also the fifth year in a row that a senior quarterback will be entering the year as the starter according to Melton.
“I think it’s a testament to our program,” Melton said, “Some people might see it as an insult that you don’t get to start until you’re a senior. To me, that just means you’re in a program where the kids have to work to get their starting positions.”
Defensively, Americas also has to replace a number of starters from a tough physical defense. The most impactful losses may come up front with Mike Munoz, Kolton Lindemann and Alex Guel all are gone. But, defensive tackle Gabriel Villa is ready to step up to the challenge.
“I want to do a good job of applying what the seniors before me taught me,” Villa said, “Every day, it’s just about working hard and doing what the coaches tell me.”
In the secondary, safety Isaac Olmeda is back as one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball. After a season that saw him make 49 tackles and 4 pass breakups, the rising senior is ready to show what he can do as well.
“I’m working on playing with more speed and becoming more of a downhill runner,” Olmeda said, “As for the team, we’re ready since the expectations are higher especially after winning the district title and a playoff game.”
The Blazers’ 2016 season ended roughly when the Blazers got shut out by the Abilene Eagles 55-0 in the 6A Division II area round. The loss was a bitter pill to swallow, but for the returners coming back, that game serves as motivation.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” Villa said of the Abilene game, “I really think we’ll take a lot from that game and use it as a learning experience.”
“That game was a preview for what we should expect in the second or third round,” Melendez said, “Coach Melton wants all of us to buy in what he’s trying to teach us and if we do that, I think we’ll be fine.”
As for how his team looks in the spring, Melton has been pleasantly surprised with the progress of the offense and is pushing the defense to catch up. The Blazers should be one of the toughest tests in El Paso in 2017 but Melton is hoping his team can take the next step into the postseason.
“You hear people talk about state this and state that but for us that’s a long-term goal not a short-term goal. Our goal is simple: to do better than what we did last year.”
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