MELISSA – Last Thursday evening, over 200 fans, family, players and coaches of Melissa Cardinals football gathered at Melissa High School to celebrate another gridiron season-past and announce player awards. In the red-and-black festooned Student Union area of MHS, it was a time to reflect, to visit, to thank many and to laugh.
Melissa Booster Club president Paul Anderson welcomed the crowd and, after University of Texas commit Kennedy Lewis offered the opening prayer, lines formed quickly for a tasty Tex-Mex dinner with assorted cakes and cookies for dessert.
After the meal, former Cards head coach — now full-time MISD boys athletic director — Seth Stinton
thanked players’ families as well as principals and school administrators — and, of course, those coaches’ wives — for their backing throughout the season. “Your support is very appreciated,” he said. “You took great care of us and we’re so thankful for what you did.”
Stinton went on to review the Cards’ 8-4 bi-district-championship season which ended with a loss to an eventual state champion for the second year in a row. Highlights included: beating Celina for the first time at Bobcat Stadium; the playoff win over Alvarado; a tough battle with Trinity Christian and OC Deion Sanders; soundly avenging a road loss at Sanger; and the Senior Night win over North Lamar. “There were ups and downs,” Stinton said, “but more ups which is a good thing. I’m very grateful for the way our guys played.”
Stinton then called on Melissa’s seniors to join him up front. “I’m so thankful that I got to coach you guys,” he said. “Not all played every snap, not all were starters. But all were counted on to become contributing members of our team. I hope you know how much I appreciate the amount of time and preparation that you guys put into making this season so meaningful to so many people.”
A 15-minute video produced by Jennifer Newberry was next, a slick presentation set to music that captured some of the season’s memorable moments.
Then it was time for player awards, top among them MVP, Offensive MVP and Defensive MVP.
Co-MVP honors went to senior wide receiver Kennedy Lewis and junior quarterback Brendon Lewis. Brendon, a First-Team All-District pick with an All-State Honorable Mention nod, threw for 2,983 yards and 30 touchdowns with two interceptions. He also rushed 100 times for 1,069 yards and 11 TDs. Kennedy hauled in 41 catches for 1,004 yards and 14 touchdowns and also made First-Team All-District with All-State Honorable Mention recognition.
“One of these young men will be very difficult to replace because he’s going to play for the University of Texas,” Stinton said. “And one will be very difficult to replace the following year because he’s going to go wherever he wants to go and play college football. … Both of these young men are outstanding. They both have great character and both have great smiles that brighten up the room.”
Junior running back Ja’Bray Young was named Offensive MVP. Young rushed for over 1,800 yards and 19 touchdowns on 184 carries and also logged 13 catches for 376 yards and six TDs. “Those stats are amazing,” Coach Nally said. “He got me out of a lot of bad calls. … He is extremely loving toward his teammates. He is extremely loving toward the coaching staff. … I have three sons. I hope they all grow up to be like Ja’Bray Young.”
Senior defensive end Collin O’Neal was tabbed Defensive MVP by defensive coordinator Travis Roberson. The two-time First-Team All-State pick and district Defensive Lineman of the Year led Melissa in sacks, tackles for a loss, quarterback pressures, recovered fumbles and blocked kicks last season. “As a junior,” Roberson said, “he made a switch from outside linebacker to defensive end with a great attitude, because that was what was best for the team. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the character and the value of this guy. … And he was held on every single play.”
Other team awards included:
Offensive Lineman of Year: Trevor Duggan
Receiver of the Year: Kenneth Castleberry Jr.
Offensive Back of the Year: Ian Keever
Defensive Lineman of the Year: Caleb Kroese
Linebacker of the Year: Javier Collins
Defensive Secondary Player of the Year: BJ Lewis
Special Teams Award: Braylon Brown
Tough People Win (TPW) Awards: Javier Collins, Ryan Humphries
Weight Room Warrior Awards: Hayden Nofziger, Tyler Burton, Caleb Kroese
Academic All-State Awards: BJ Lewis, Marco Morales, Jack Greer, Connor Newberry, Collin O’Neal
Athletic Training Student of the Year: Keegan Maynard
At evening’s end, Cardinal seniors presented Stinton with a large framed memento including photos and best wishes, in part, as a thank you for his highly successful tenure as head coach at Melissa.
Stinton reflects on banquet
In presiding over Thursday’s football banquet, Seth Stinton performed perhaps a final duty as head coach of the Melissa Cardinals. Earlier this month, after 10 seasons at the Cards’ helm, Stinton moved into school administration full-time as MISD boys athletic director. Third-year Melissa offensive coordinator Matt Nally was promoted to head coach.
Over the last decade, Stinton and the Cards compiled a school-best 81-40 record, with nine playoff appearances, three district titles and a Class 2A Division I state championship in 2011. “It was pretty emotional,” Stinton said of the banquet a day later, especially when it came time to recognize another group of departing seniors. “I’ve been around those guys for a long time - four years in high school, two years in junior high and, before that, sixth grade. They’re good kids. Every senior class has been special. We’ll miss those guys. To be the last one, you never know what will happen, but it was pretty emotional for me.
“I’m excited to be in the new role that I’m in. I probably won’t really realize what [not coaching] is going to be like until it actually happens. Ask me again in the fall. It’ll be weird, it’ll be different for me.”
As for that large framed gift he received from the seniors, Stinton said, “It was pretty awesome. The pictures in there are really neat. We have a ‘Word of the Week’ that we talk about every week. They added those in it. It’s pretty special.”