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An example: Senior Melqui Lemus

Melqui Lemus will help set the tone for Saugus’ defense this season

Posted: September 10, 2009 10:31 p.m.
Updated: September 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Senior Melqui Lemus, left, shares advice with junior Chris Wolford in practice at Saugus High School on Thursday.

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The drill ended with a whistle, and Saugus offensive line coach Andy Kaminski exhorted his players to keep moving to the next station as the late-summer heat beat down on the field, players and coaches.

Tired and near the end of practice, a few of his linemen looked to where they should be lining up.

One or two gave their equipment a quick check, while most went for an even quicker water break as they hustled around.

Senior Melqui Lemus was moving blocking pads to prepare for the next drill.

“Why is Melqui setting up the drill?” Kaminski asks the other linemen.

Head coach Jason Bornn looks over and becomes involved.

“Hey, if you’re not wearing a black or white jersey, you’re helping set up the drills,” Bornn says, referring to the practice jerseys that the starters wear for scrimmage purposes.

Menial tasks like move the blocking sled and carrying equipment aren’t usually the job of a first-stringer, especially for a returning All-Foothill League defensive lineman.

“He’s always doing little stuff like that. I try to get the other guys to help him, but he’s always out front,” Kaminski says. “He’s a great leader.”

Sometimes that’s what leadership is.

The scene is not atypical but ironic, since Lemus isn’t even really an offensive lineman. And it’s not because Kaminski doesn’t want him to play offensive line as well.

Lemus was just trying to show his younger teammates what they should be doing.

“We’re trying to mainly play Melqui on defense,” Kaminski says. “We’re trying to save him for that, because of everything he brings to the table.

“But to be honest, he’s probably one of our better offensive linemen as well.”

Kaminski says Lemus could potentially play any of the line positions and well, because of a 5-foot-10-inch, 247-pound frame that combines strength, toughness and good use of leverage.

In fact, he could be plugged into center or either of the guard and tackle spots in tonight’s matchup against Pasadena, should injury strike the team.

And Lemus knows he will have to do more than set up drills for his younger teammates if he wants to improve upon last year’s successful season, which resulted in a first-ever outright league title and a spot in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.

While the departures of Desi Rodriguez and Ryan Zirbel to greener pastures are well-documented, less discussed are the defensive components that were lost and figured largely into the team’s success.

Fellow all-league linebackers Mario Lara, Nick Patterson and Tyler Steen have all graduated and more than 250 tackles from last year are gone with them.

But perhaps the biggest loss — the void Lemus is working to fill — was left by Robert Donathan.

Donathan was a senior on last year’s team and named as the Foothill League’s Lineman of the Year by the league’s coaches.

“(Donathan) was one of those defensive linemen who just got after it,” Lemus says. “Any opponent he faced, he pretty much kicked their butt.

“I learned a lot from him and kind of admired his game,” he adds. “And if we were sluggish, he always told us to pick up our effort.”

An anchor for the defense from the end spot, Lemus will be one of only a handful of players with starting experience coming back from last year. And as a team captain this year, his teammates say he’s a natural for the role.

Senior tight end Amani Davis says Lemus is always pushing the team to try and get better.

“When he sees people are lagging, not doing their job or could do better, he’ll tell them, ‘Get your stuff together and let’s do this,’ or ‘We’ve got to get our stuff together and we’ve got to go,” Davis says.

Lemus said it wasn’t just field leadership, but in the locker room where Donathan set the example that he tries to follow.

“I just try to help out the second string,” Lemus says of his leadership role. “If they’re doing something wrong, I try to tell them how to fix it and how they can get better.”

Both Bornn and Kaminski note how Lemus’ skills and attitude has earned the respect of his teammates. And both agree Lemus has the talent to replace Donathan as their league’s top lineman.

“From a character aspect, he’s one of those kids who is just a grinder,” Bornn says.

“He leads by example. ... If things aren’t going well in practice he’ll ground the team, encourage them — and kick their butts, if needed.”

In addition to the team’s agenda, Lemus says he had a few personal goals for the season.

“I want to be an all-league player again, play harder and just step up my game,” the lineman says.

“Last year, the senior players set a real high standard for us,” Lemus says. “Going into this year, we want to do that again and win the Foothill League title.”  

 

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