Melba High School
Conference: 2A Western Idaho Conference
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Head Coach: Sherman Blaser
Years as Head Coach: 3rd Season
Previous Experience: 5 Years Ass’t Skyview; 1 Year Ass’t Eagle; 1 Year Head Coach Madison
Record Last Year: 6-3
State Titles: 1994, 2002
QB Eli Bangerter (Sr)
WR/LB Kobe Phillips (Jr)
OL/DL Scott Orr (Sr)
OL/DL Mitch Olson (Sr)
OL/DL Francisco Alvares (Sr)
RB/DB Brian Reyes (Sr)
WR/DB Matthew Coates (Sr)
WR/DB McGwire Phillips (Sr)
Returning Players with Honors:
Bangerter (1st Team All-WIC QB)
Orr (2nd Team All-WIC DL)
Phillips (Honorable Mention All-WIC LB)
Key Players lost from last year:
OL/DL Loren Westphal
WR Devin Edmiston
Photo By: Steve Conner - #3 Eli Bangerter
Incoming impact players:
RB/LB Dillon Cummings (Sr)
TE/LB Tyrell Martin (Soph)
Written by: Will Hoenike
For second-year head coach Sherman Blaser, the motto for the 2016 Melba Mustangs is simple.
“Pony up,” Blaser told the Preview. “We have been building for two years and the standards are set. Pony up to those standards.”
If momentum carried over from season-to-season, Melba would be one of the hottest 2A teams in the state after winning five of six to close the season. What does carry over from season to season, though, is the confidence built in that run, which included a pair of shutouts and a third game where the Mustang defense allowed just six points before seeing the team knocked out of the 2A state playoffs by eventual champion Grangeville.
“Our box players (defensive line, linebackers) are solid,” Blaser said. “Smart, instinctual kids that understand what we are asking them to do.”
Melba returns a host of experience among its box players, led by defensive linemen Scott Orr (a 2nd-team All-Western Idaho Conference selection as a junior), Mitch Olson and Francisco Alvarez. Honorable-mention All-Western Idaho Conference linebacker Kobe Phillips returns as well with senior Dillon Cummings and sophomore Tyrell Martin battling for playing time at the linebacker position as well.
Blaser has depth in the secondary as well, with returning starters Brian Reyes, Matthew Coates and McGwire Phillips back in Mustang red for the upcoming season.
“I want to create more turnovers,” Blaser continued. “They are a major factor in winning and losing. If we have the ball, you have a harder time scoring. So that is an area of emphasis, get the ball back to the offense.”
When Melba’s offense has the ball, it will usually be in the capable hands of 1st Team All-Western Idaho Conference quarterback Eli Bangerter. He’s entering his second full season as the team’s starting quarterback after splitting time between signal-caller and receiver as a sophomore. He started his junior season strong, tossing four touchdown passes in an opening-weekend road win at Wendell, and parlayed it into a solid season and conference honors.
Protecting Bangerter will be the same experienced linemen who will be charged with pressuring opposing quarterbacks – Orr, Olson and Alvarez. They’ll also be charged with opening holes for Reyes, who is expected to be one of the primary ball-carrying running backs for Melba. Coates and the two Phillips (Kobe and McGwire) will be involved in the offense as well.
“We are strong up front, we feel our biggest strength is our O-line,” Blaser noted. “We need to be more explosive. Big plays can change the outcome of the game.”
It’s not an easy schedule for the Mustangs, who play 3A opponents in two of their first three games. Then, to close the season, Melba plays three of four games on the road, including big-time WIC tilts at Nampa Christian, the defending conference champion, and at New Plymouth, who figures to be firmly in the conversation about this season’s conference champion.
The standard has been set. The pieces are in place. The challenge in front of the Melba football team is not an easy one, but Blaser’s team should be in position to compete for the conference title and once again reach the 2A state playoffs.