Just like big-league baseball players don’t rub the spot where they get it by a pitch, high school football players, especially high school football players who are wrestlers as well, don’t like to admit they are ever tired.
And maybe they shouldn’t ever be. After all, former Princeton men’s basketball coach Pete Carril used to say that healthy, athletic young men shouldn’t ever be tired, a condition he reserved for “old, worn-out” men like himself.
So for Phillipsburg senior two-way lineman and 2016 state wrestling runner-upRobert Melise to take a knee while waiting for a reporter Friday night, and then to admit it was nice to catch his breath, he must really had to feel the weariness deep inside.
Given his all-out effort in the Stateliners’ 14-6 defeat of Montgomery in a Mid-State 38 Delaware Division at Maloney Stadium, even Carril would allow that maybe Melise was tired.
Melise made play after play in the win that pushed the Stateliners to 4-2 overall, 3-2 in the division. He was steady at center despite having a Cougar on his nose the whole game as Montgomery plays a 5-2 set. Melise shrugged that off as routine, but Phillipsburg head coach Frank Duffy has said during the week it would be a considerable challenge. Melise met that challenge.
Melise played a key role in holding the Cougars (3-4, 1-3) to 57 yards rushing in the game. His penetration of the Montgomery backfield led to three tackles for loss and a whole bunch of blown-up plays.
On special teams, Melise blocked a fourth-quarter field goal that would have pulled Montgomery within 14-9. He had blocked four kicks last season.
“That is because of the scheme our coaches use,” Melise said. “We worked on that all this week. We set it up so Zach Troxell is in one position and Nick Josselyn is in another and they each tied up two guys so that lets me free.”
We’d say it does. Melise came in so clean and so fast he could have almost made the hold for the kick.
But the biggest play Melise made all night was also the smartest. His football mind showed no weariness at all on the play that set up Phillipsburg’s second touchdown.
Melise scooped up a Montgomery fumble at the Cougars’ 16 and rumbled to the 4, where he was tackled. Asked if he was annoyed he didn’t score, Melise said not struggling for extra yards was the smart move.
“I knew (Cougar quarterback Mike Patrizio) was trying to strip the ball, trying to leap and take the ball away,” Melise said. “He was going for the ball, so I figured I’d just hold onto it and we’d push it in the end zone on the next play.”
And Phillipsburg did just that – Garrett Boures roared into the end zone for a 14-0 lead.
It was a lead that held up – thanks to the kind of hard work that, somehow, left Robert Melise tired.
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports. Find Lehigh Valley high school sports on Facebook.