Melissa won a state championship in 2011 and got thrust up into the next division for 2013. That might slow some programs, but not the Cardinals, who won a district and bi-district title in their first year playing in Class 3A. They started their season with a huge win over Celina and then swept their district pool before eventually falling to state powerhouse Argyle.
The Cardinals graduated many weapons this past season but also have some fresh young talent to look for this year when players return to the field in just a few weeks. Everyone is excited for the season, but hold on, we’re not there just yet. Let’s look back at the historic 2012.
The Melissa Cardinals are quickly getting a reputation — as a team that wins big games.
The often-feared Celina Bobcats are known for their crushing style of play and winning way more games than they lose, but in the season opener it was the red birds that were on top of the hill.
Defenses dominated the matchup, with the Melissa defense holding the Bobcats under four yards a carry on the ground and Celina limiting the Cardinals to just 110 yards in the air.
Both teams had three possessions in the first quarter before one of them eventually was able to get on the board. The Cardinals started the drive on the Bobcat 49-yard line and drove down inside the 5-yard line before the drive stalled and they settled for a 23-yard field goal from Walker Montoya.
Celina took the ensuing possession and drove the ball deep inside Cardinal territory, but their drive stalled inside the 10 and they turned the ball over on downs.
Melissa went into the locker room up 10-0 at halftime and then held on late to get the win.
Van Alstyne 0
Chris Smith threw two touchdowns and Marcus Ellis also rushed for a pair as Melissa utilized both facets of its offense during a 42-0 win at Van Alstyne in non-district play.
Smith passed for 161 yards in the first half, as Melissa led 12-0 at halftime and rushed for 317 of its 477 total offensive yards.
Ellis ran for 156 of his 181 rushing yards in the third quarter — scoring on runs of 45 and 92 yards — to lead Melissa to 23 third-quarter points.
Jackson Webb and Brass Woods converted throws from Smith in the first half into scoring receptions of 43 and 34 yards for a 12-0 lead. Webb’s touchdown capped a 55-yard game-opening drive. Meanwhile, Woods’ score came with 4:41 left in the second quarter, ended a 71-yard drive and came after he leaped and fought off a defender to initially make the catch.
Gunter rallied from a two-touchdown deficit after the first quarter and made a goal line stand in the closing seconds for a 21-18 victory.
After Melissa took over at its 30-yard line with 1:23 left in the game, Chris Smith completed three straight passes to Brass Woods and J.C. Cottrell as the Cardinals eventually reached the 1-yard line with 15 seconds to go.
Joel Schmitz came up with a tackle short of the end zone, and then Rhett Taylor knocked down a pass on the final play to secure the victory for Gunter.
Despite spending more than 15 minutes in the first half playing defense, the Cardinals quickly found the end zone twice in the first quarter. Junior running back Marcus Ellis put Melissa on the board first to cap a brilliant 99-yard drive.
The Cardinals rushed for 245 yards against Farmersville in a 17-point victory.
Only one score came out of the first half. Melissa’s Marcus Ellis made a short run, capping off his team’s advance from the Melissa 37-yard line, which included Chris Smith passes to Cameron Hunter and Brass Woods for 19 and 18 yards, respectively.
The Farmers struggled against Melissa’s defense, gaining only 115 rushing yards for the team total.
Chris Smith threw two touchdowns and Marcus Ellis ran for one and helped set up another Melissa’s loss.
Melissa never led, as Paris turned two special teams turnovers into nine points during the first 13 minutes of the game.
Paris scored a safety on a high punt snap out of the end zone in the first quarter, before capitalizing on a mishandled punt return deep in Melissa territory in the second with a rushing touchdown.
Melissa answered Paris’ touchdown on its ensuing drive with Ellis’ 25-yard rushing score with 10:09 left — a play after Smith and Cameron Hunter connected for a 32-yard completion. Connor Bazis’ extra point made it 9-7.
With its lead cut to two, Paris produced a 41-yard gain on the first play of its ensuing 89-yard scoring drive that increased its lead to 16-7 with 6:40 left in the second quarter.
Prime Prep 8
Chris Smith passed for 168 yards and three touchdowns as Melissa totaled more than 600 yards of offense in a 67-8 non-district victory against Prime Prep Academy at Cardinal Stadium.
Zach Torres and Marcus Ellis led the team in rushing with 89 and 82 yards, respectfully, despite a combined 13 carries. The Cardinals scored nine touchdowns before Prime Prep entered the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Ellis scored with rushing touchdowns in the first and second quarters and Smith passed to Xavier Mason, J.C. Cottrell and Brass Woods for scores in the first half. Byron Beard added a 23-yard TD run and the Cardinals led Prime Prep, 41-0, at halftime.
Melissa received the kickoff to start the third quarter. A 36-yard run from Beard highlighted the first advance and set up the Cardinals on Prime Prep’s 8-yard line. Kyle Morgan scored on the next play.
Prime Prep took its first snap from the Melissa 40 and steadily moved the ball to the 11. But it turned the ball over on downs in its first real scoring chance.
A.J. Blackwell ran for 24 yards, Zach Torres passed to Keaton Collins for 41 yards and then Torres rushed for 24 yards to the 1 yard line to set up Garrett Vestal’s touchdown run.
Melissa put forth a passing exhibition en route to a 57-27 home win over Nevada Community in its District 12-3A opener. Chris Smith passed for 333 yards and three touchdowns, as Melissa (5-2, 1-0) quickly distanced itself from Community (4-4, 0-2).
Ellis also rushed for 81 yards as Melissa totaled 200 on the ground and had 533 overall.
The passing clinc started on the game-opening drive, as Jackson Webb caught an 18-yard score from Smith to cap Melissa’s eight-play, 63-yard effort in 2:15. Smith finished 4-for-4 on the drive, also completing passes to Brass Woods’ for five yards, Webb for 16 and J. C. Cottrell for eight.
Leading 12-0, Marcus Ellis capped the 20-point opening quarter with a two-point run, after Webb’s six-yard run up the middle for a touchdown with 1:34 left in the first.
The lead increased to 54-7 at halftime, as Smith began Melissa’s 34-point second quarter by hitting Xavier Mason for a 41-yard touchdown — and ended it with a 61-yard scoring strike to Cottrell.
Kyle Morgan also had a five-yard touchdown run, Smith scored on a one-yard keeper and Ellis added a 10-yard scoring jaunt in the second. Cameron Hunter preceded Morgan’s score with a 60-yard reception.
Meanwhile, Ellis’ touchdown allowed Melissa to convert a lost Community fumble into seven points, following a 15-yard turnover-causing sack by Vic Hollingsworth and Brewer.
Marcus Ellis rushed for 214 yards on 14 carries, scoring on touchdown runs of 41, 42 and 44 yards, as playoff-bound Melissa tallied 346 on the ground and stayed on course for the title clash.
Bonham (2-7, 1-2) totaled 108 yards and only four first downs, getting stopped for negative yardage by Melissa on 13 of 34 carries.
Melissa, nearing its seventh-straight postseason, never trailed against Bonham, getting Ellis’ 41-yard score in the first quarter with 5:19 left to cap its second possession of the game.
Ellis added a 42-yard touchdown run — on his next carry — in the second with 10:43 remaining for a 12-0 halftime lead, before picking off a pass later in the quarter to help Melissa overcome a lost fumble.
Melissa closed out its regular season with a 27-21 win over Anna in a game that counted for bragging rights alone. Melissa (8-2, 4-0) secured the district title a week prior and went on to complete the district sweep with the win over Anna (6-4, 1-3).
Kyle Morgan had a big gain to set Melissa up on the one yard line and he capped off the drive on the next play to put Melissa up 8-0 as the first quarter came to a close.
Melissa fumbled the ball on their next drive and Damien Hill picked up the loose ball and returned it 57 yards to give Anna a 14-8 lead but just as quickly as the lead came it disappeared. Marcus Ellis took the ball 75 yards on Melissa’s next play to help his team regain the lead that they would hold onto going into the half and eventually the game.
Melissa amassed nearly 500 yard of offense as the Cardinals crushed the Wilmer-Hutchins Eagles in the Class 3A Division II Region II Bi-district playoff game at Wildcat-Ram Stadium.
The Cardinals scored 47 points in 24 minutes as they won 53-29.
Early in the contest the teams were neck-and-neck, with sluggish offenses in the first quarter followed by unstoppable offenses before halftime.
Black Friday ended up being a little more than the Cardinals bargained for when Melissa and the Argyle Eagles met in the Area round of the UIL playoffs at Collins Stadium in Denton.
Early in the contest, it looked like the two offensive juggernauts would score for hours when the two teams combined for 35 points in the opening quarter. However, the Eagles defense held Melissa the remainder of the game to get the big win to advance in the playoffs.
"I thought our kids played hard," Melissa coach Seth Stinton said. "We ran into a very tough Argyle team that did some things to us that we weren’t able to stop."