LAKEWOOD — Picture this: A workhorse running back.
The kid has got to be fast, right? Durable. Tough. Have a real nose for the end zone. Get you those tough yards between the tackles. When times are rough – and they always are at some point in the playoffs – you have to be able to hitch your offense to him and ride his legs to victory.
That describes Eagles running back Andrew Melton perfectly, even if the senior doesn’t always look the part.
Melton ran for 264 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles’ 51-44 barnburning victory Nov. 15 over the Longmont Trojans to advance to the final four of Class 4A football.
Melton is shifty, quick and solid, but in the world of running backs – even prep running backs – the senior is a size extra-medium. And that just makes his XXL performance in two playoff games this season so special.
Including Dakota Ridge’s whipping of previously unbeaten Pueblo South in the first round of the playoffs, Melton now has accounted for 512 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
Against Longmont, Melton carried the ball a whopping 35 times, a number that raised even his eyebrows afterwards. Of course, he just smiles when told that guys his size aren’t supposed to rumble between the tackles like he does.
“I don’t get hit as hard as it looks,” Melton said. “I have a good O-line that creates huge holes for me. It’s a lot easier for me to run.”
That might be a matter of perspective. The Trojans, who slugged it out for second place in the Northern League, which was hands down the deepest league in the classification, were a very physical bunch. If Melton had any breaks, it was his ability to run past the mashers up front and make the linebackers and secondary bring him down.
When the Eagles needed the yards, they went to Melton, even on fourth down.
This weekend, Melton and the Eagles will get a chance at revenge and redemption when they face Wheat Ridge in the state semifinals. Wheat Ridge, champions in 2006, pounded the Eagles 35-7 in Week 4. But that was a different Eagles team, they say. That team had Cameron Pritchett and a sore shoulder at quarterback, these Eagles have the deep-ball threat of Bolton Howes in the pocket.
The Farmers also have Parker Orms, who has become a Swiss Army Knife of sorts. In playoff victories over Fountain-Fort Carson and Rock Canyon, Orms has rushed for 545 yards and has accounted for six touchdowns – three by rushing, one receiving, one throwing and one punt return.
In that September West Metro League game against the Eagles, Orms ran for 238 yards and four touchdowns.
Melton? He had just 60 yards and one touchdown.
The game, however, was fluky. Although the Eagles were outscored by four touchdowns, they were outgained by only 53 yards.
Melton and the Eagles think Howes will be the X-factor. A strong quarterback has always been the key to Dakota Ridge’s multi-dimensional offense.
“I’m excited to see what’s he’s going to do,” Melton said of Howes. “I think he’s matured a lot over the year.”
Just don’t forget to keep an eye on Melton on Nov. 22, who is one of the best workhorse running backs you never imagined.