New coach Melendez brings fresh attitude to Plateau Valley
COLLBRAN — There’s a new face (again) fronting the Plateau Valley High School football team.
Joe Melendez is the Cowboys’ third head coach in as many years.
He’s not new to Western Slope athletics, though. He was an assistant coach at Rifle and a head coach at Dolores in past years.
This will be his first experience in the world of 8-man football.
Melendez came to Collbran in mid-July and immediately set up a camp.
“One of the first things I did was send 21 letters to Plateau Valley kids,” he said, urging boys not currently out for football to try their hand at it.
As usual, however, the Cowboys get the added bonus of drawing players from Grand Mesa High School and De Beque, although De Beque players were given the option of playing for Plateau Valley or Grand Valley.
During camp last month, Melendez was immediately impressed with the athletic ability lining up in the backfield and at wide receiver.
“We have some skill people,” he said.
Although he’s working with three fewer players on either side of the ball than he’s used to, Melendez is excited about the prospect of bringing a wide-open attack to both sides of the ball.
Favoring multiple sets on offense, but primarily out of a pro set, he expects to utilize the athleticism of Teddy Grundy.
Despite his relative youth, the sophomore appears more than ready to take over as the Cowboys’ quarterback. Though he’s only 170 pounds, he does show good athletic ability and a strong arm.
Melendez also has the luxury of playing junior Dalton Shuman at quarterback, although in an effort to get his best athletes on the field, he’d like to play Schuman at running back.
Senior fullback Joe Foss will be Shuman’s lead blocker. Foss is eager to play after missing most of last year with a broken hand.
At 5-foot-8 and 145 pounds, he’s got excellent speed and quickness.
Melendez does have the usual lament of 8-man coaches.
Although he’s impressed with his skill guys, “What we need are the horses up front,” he said.
The potential of two freshmen, Wes Cortez and Fernando Enrico, could help the Cowboys. Both are expected to get plenty of playing time during their first high school season.
Cortez’s older brother Cade, a sophomore, is one experienced player Melendez can count on up front, playing end on both offense and defense.
With Dove Creek having graduated seven of its eight starters, the long run the Bulldogs have relished in the West Division could be over, although most of the division’s coaches are not willing to concede that Dove Creek’s shelf is completely bare. Credit Ken Soper’s 45 years of coaching experience for that.
Still, it may be time for a new team to take over the top slot in the standings. With the talent he’s got, Melendez is hoping it can be his team.