Head Coach: Juan Colunga
Years as Head Coach: 2nd Season
Previous Experience: 12 Years
Record Last Year: 3-6
State Titles: 1991 and 2002
Dallin Forsgren, DB/QB, 12
Zane Dayley, DB/WR, 12
Scotty Martinez, LB/RB, 11
Brock Lueddeke, DL/OL, 11
Hank Svedin, LB/OL, 11
Easton Bunnell, LB/FB, 11
William Baird, DL/OL, 11
Donavaun Rose, OL/DL, 10
Returning Players with Honors:
Zayne Dayley, Honorable Mention WIC DB
Easton Bunnell, Honorable Mention WIC LB
Brock Lueddeke, Honorable Mention WIC DL
Scotty Martinez, Honorable Mention WIC RB
Key Players lost from last year:
Kobe Phillips, FB/LB, 1st Team All-WIC LB. Four year starter at MLB who was a tough, instinctive player. His leadership and toughness will be missed.
Photo By: Patty Theurer - #1 Scotty Martinez
Incoming impact players:
Ty Baham, DL/OL, 12
Tyler Roberts, DB/RB, 11
Abe Riley, DB/RB, 11
Zane Helm, DB/QB, 10
Joey Bradshaw, LB/RB, 10
Chris Zavala, DL/OL, 10
Cameron Wood, DB/WR, 10
Austin Evans, DB/WR, 10
Written By: Sven Alskog
Year one under a new coach is typically the building the program year. For Juan Colunga and the Melba Mustangs, the time appears right to now compete for a spot among the upper echelon of the 2A Western Idaho Conference in the second season with the new man in charge.
There are multiple reasons for optimism based on the performance of last season, namely that the Mustangs were within a play or two of a five win season, and that even despite that, the group made a fifth straight trip to the 2A state playoffs.
The difference in the returners in year two of the system is noticeable.
“Excited about the strong core of players that return with one year of experience under their belt running the wing-t offense and our base defense. Players are more familiar with terminology, assignments and reads and are clicking a lot better than a year ago. We will not have much depth, so kids have done a great job committing to summer weights and conditioning preparing physically for the season. Key players such as Dallin Forsgren, Zayne Dayley, Scotty Martinez, Brock Lueddeke, Hank Svedin, Tyler Roberts, William Baird, Donovaun Rose and Easton Bunnell have been great leaders and have helped tremendously with the young kids who are learning the system,” said Colunga.
Those new pieces have the coach excited as well.
“Young players Chris Zavala, Cameron Wood, Joey Bradshaw, Zane Helm, Austin Evans and William Vail have also committed and have seen remarkable growth in the last few months and will at some point have a chance to help at the varsity level. It’s neat to see players come together and commit for the same purpose and I can’t wait to see how all of their hard work pays off,” added Colunga.
On the offensive side of the ball, an experienced front line should help open up some nice holes for a backfield piloted by quarterback Forsgren and running back Martinez.
Four of five starters return on the offensive line in Svedin, Lueddeke, Baird and Rose. Ty Baham and Zavala are expected to battle it out for the other spot.
“Our biggest offensive strength this year will be a very committed core group of players that have spent a lot of time together in the weight room and on the field since early spring. Their commitment, experience and hard work should help, as four linemen who started multiple games return,” said Colunga.
In the offseason, Forsgren has developed into one of the team leaders, while Martinez returns after leading the team in rushing last season and has become bigger, quicker, faster and stronger over the summer.
The rest of the backfield will have a different look to it.
“Fullback Easton Bunnell will replace Kobe Phillips and has plenty of experience, filling in very well in the play-in game vs. Grangeville. Tyler Roberts, Joey Bradshaw and Abe Riley will look to compete for the other wing back position and have been getting better since the spring,” added Colunga.
He likes the ability of his receiver group as well.
“Zayne Dayley will be a threat at wide receiver with his speed and will be an asset in the running game with his blocking. He has done a great job teaching young wide receivers Cameron Wood and Austin Evans.”
As is the case in smaller classifications, players will not be limited to just one side of the ball.
“In 2A your best athletes play both ways if you are going to be successful. Experience will also help our defense, which had flashes of great football at times last year. Our defensive line played very well at times and consistency will be key this season with Lueddeke, Rose, Baird, Zavala and Baham all having had a great summer so far,” said Colunga.
The linebacker unit appears to be impacted the most by graduation, however the Mustangs do have pieces in place to be able to fill the holes.
“The linebacker group took a big hit with the graduation of Kobe Phillips, who was a four-year starter and tough as nails, but Svedin has added size and strength and will be tough in the middle. Bunnell returns for his second year at outside linebacker and has added size and speed this summer. Martinez is an all-conference caliber athlete and will be used at linebacker and safety. Sophomore Joey Bradshaw has played well this summer and will be in the linebacker rotation as well,” said Colunga.
In the defensive backfield Melba should be strong, with Dayley leading the way from the safety position.
To improve upon the record from last season, the team will need to perform well at the end of games to finish off the opposition.
“Toughness, tackling and finishing games. We lost two late fourth quarter leads due to mental breakdowns. The experienced gained from last season, this spring and summer has helped tremendously with terminology and overall defensive cohesiveness,” added Colunga.
Melba will get the season started on the road in Terreton against the West Jefferson Panthers, who many think could make lots of noise in the 2A ranks this year.