With a freshman quarterback making his first-ever start, Melissa’s Cardinals knocked off Nevada Community, 42-22, on Friday to secure the third playoff seed from District 5-4A Div. II. The Cards (7-3, 3-2) will face Dallas Lincoln (7-3, 4-1) in the bi-district round on Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m., at Mesquite’s Memorial Stadium.
Freshman Brendon Lewis, playing for injured junior quarterback Tate Whittington, threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns in Melissa’s regular season finale.
“He played well,” Cards head coach Seth Stinton said. “He did not play like a freshman, that’s for sure. He played his tail off and it was fun to watch him play. … Anytime you start a freshman quarterback you’re a little bit nervous, especially if it’s his first start (and) and some playoff implications are on the line. I thought he really stepped up and did a great job for us.”
Lewis tossed touchdown strikes to junior Cole McCraw, sophomore Kennedy Lewis, senior Gunnar Murphy and sophomore Junior Castleberry, with deep TD passes to McCraw, Lewis and Castleberry.
“(At receiver) we’ve really got more weapons out there — Drew Cummings playing out there as well, besides those other guys,” Stinton said. “Anytime you can spread the ball around like that, it’s a pretty good night.”
He said Castleberry especially performed well during the game.
“(Castleberry’s) another guy that we needed to step up last night,” he said. “He moved up as well and did a fantastic job. I think we brought five guys up from our JV this week. All those guys got to put in some minutes.”
Freshmen running backs Kaedric Cobbs and Ja’Bray Young collected 102 yards and 76 yards, respectively, and junior Breelyn Armstrong averaged six yards per carry on three attempts.
“I think our offensive line did a great job again last night,” Stinton said. “Anytime you have three really good running backs that can tote the mail, you feel really good about them and where they’re at. … That kind of opens up a little bit of your passing game.”
He spoke highly of the team’s defensive linemen.
“I think all our defensive linemen, Jacob Shelton, Gabe Rodriguez and Garret Hines, those three guys really did a fantastic job for us,” he said. “It’s 29-0 at halftime and we kind of played some other guys, but in the first half, those guys really did a terrific job of getting off blocks and making tackles. … And, obviously, being Senior Night, all of our seniors got in and had a good night as well.”
Bottom line: The Cards are back in the playoffs.
“Going from 1-9 (last year) to 7-3, feel pretty good about it. I think our guys have really put in some work,” Stinton said. “We’ve got a big task ahead of us. … Our job isn’t done. We’re going to hopefully figure out how to beat Dallas Lincoln and get to the second round. That’s what our goal is.”