Melton rose to the occasion

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By Brian Forbes

One of the better football players in the state would rather be playing baseball.

Andrew Melton isn’t afraid to admit that. And a lot of opposing coaches in Class 4A probably wished he never ran the ball this year for the Dakota Ridge Eagles.

By amassing more than 2,400 yards from scrimmage and 31 touchdowns, Melton was selected as Evergreen Newspaper’s football player of the year. The shifty senior was a workhorse running and catching the ball out of the backfield, as well as returning kickoffs for the Eagles, who finished 9-4 and advanced to the state semifinals.

“We had good senior leadership this year,” Melton said. “None of the seniors wanted to lose. We found out the tough way last year.”

Melton, who was held below 100 yards rushing just twice this season, finished with 2,220 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground, while hauling in 21 catches for 214 yards and four touchdowns. Melton averaged 9.4 yards per carry and racked up 678 yards and six touchdowns in the Eagle’s three playoff games.

Of course, Melton would rather be playing shortstop. At 5-feet-9, 160 pounds, Melton sees his future rich in diamonds, not gridiron.

“I like baseball better,” he said. “I’m going to be honest.”

While Melton was playing summer baseball, he was also making sure he – voted a team captain in the spring – made every offseason workout he could for the football team.

“A lot of it started way back in the summer,” Eagles coach Ron Woitalewicz said. “He had a great summer. He didn’t miss any days in the weight room.”

And it showed. Not only blessed with good breakaway speed and uncanny vision, Melton was also extremely durable. Some of that can be attributed to getting an early rest against some of the lesser competition in the West Metro League, but he carried the ball an average of 27 times a game in the Eagles’ final four games – all against playoff teams.

Melton’s showcase game was the state quarterfinal matchup against the Longmont Trojans, where he carried the ball a career-high 36 times for 262 yards and scored three touchdowns in a wild 51-44 victory.

Nearly as impressive, however, was his 124-yard effort the following week in Dakota Ridge’s 21-16 semifinal loss to eventual champion Wheat Ridge. Melton had been held to just 60 yards by the stingy Farmers in their Week Four encounter.

So how does a smaller running back remain so durable through 13 games?

“I don’t know. Practices are pretty intense and it gets you into the game-time mood,” Melton said. “I’m pretty used to it.”

But perhaps the biggest compliments are the ones Melton deferred. After the Eagles mopped up Pueblo South 37-22 in the first round of the playoffs, Woitalewicz was handing out helmet awards the following Monday to Melton for his 248-yard, three-touchdown effort.

Melton’s response? Give them to his linemen.

“That’s his mentality,” Woitalewicz said. “He understood he wasn’t doing this all by himself.”