Healthy backfield could make Meeker a 1A WSC contender
With the break of a leg and the twinge of a hamstring, a Meeker High School football team that challenged Cedaredge — and eventual Class 1A state champion Paonia — saw its season unravel.
Jake Phelan, who was the second-best passer in the 1A Western Slope Conference despite missing two games, went down with a broken leg during the first drive against Roaring Fork. A few plays later, running back T.J. Shelton came up lame with a pulled hamstring.
After beginning the season with a 6-0 record, then two narrow defeats against a pair of playoff teams, Meeker dropped its final two games without scoring a point.
The Cowboys know what could have been, and now they’re hungry.
Phelan and Shelton are back with an offensive line that has another year under its belt. A spread-option attack that baffled defenses looks even more potent.
Coach Shane Phelan, Jake’s father, said having key pieces back on both sides of the ball will be beneficial.
“They’re a year older, and they spent a lot of time in the weight room and throwing the ball around,” Shane Phelan said. “I saw a kid walk in who weighed 20 pounds more than he did last year. Kids change so much at this age, so you never know exactly what you have, but I’m excited to find out.”
Jake Phelan, a senior, threw for 997 yards in seven games and ran for 793 more. He threw for 10 TDs, with only two interceptions, and scored 13 times on the ground. He is one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the conference and has one of the best arms.
Shelton, a sophomore who powers through tacklers, had 712 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. He also had nine receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns.
“It’s the second year that everyone is in the system,” Shane Phelan said. “It’s their second year with this offense and second year with this defense. It’s a matter of everyone being more comfortable.”
Casey Turner, a sophomore linebacker who led Meeker with 89 tackles as a freshman, also returns.
“It’s been awhile since there’s been a winning tradition at Meeker,” Shane Phelan said. “Cedaredge, Paonia, what they’ve been able to do is a testament to the amount of work those programs have put in. Those things don’t happen by accident.
“I’d like to think we’re building something here, and our guys are probably hungry after the end of last season. Time will tell if we’re ready to prove ourselves.”