Navajo Prep football welcomes familiar face to sidelines
FARMINGTON − Matt Melvin, current boys basketball coach at Navajo Prep, was tabbed last week to also head the football program, which will open the season later this month.
Melvin, who's been a quarterback at both the high school and collegiate level before turning his attention to coaching, was named the Eagles head football coach months after the resignation of Roderick Denetso, who stepped down following the conclusion of last season to concentrate his efforts in an administrative role at the school.
Navajo Prep, which saw its season come to an end last November in the Class 3A state football tournament when losing to Hope Christian by a final of 57-36, will likely be favored to once again lead District 1-3A in the standings. In order to achieve that kind of success, they'll have to rely on some new faces after losing some of their top playmakers to graduation.
Never mind that Melvin, who's been on the job for less than two weeks, has been hastily working on getting the team ready for their season opener, Thursday, Aug. 25, at home against Wingate. Melvin played quarterback at Farmington High School before graduating in 2001 and played at West Texas A&M University as well. He was approached last spring about the vacant head coaching position by Navajo Prep athletic director Rainy Crisp.
"I sat with her on some interviews with other candidates for the job, but we just couldn't line anything up," Melvin recalled. "She kept asking me to take the job, and finally I talked to my family and cleared it with them."
In addition to his duties as head football coach, Melvin will also be working on getting the school's boys basketball team ready for their season opener later this fall. The basketball team had a tremendous run last spring, which ended with the team falling just short in the Class 3A state quarterfinals, losing to St. Michael's 41-40. Melvin has led the boys basketball team for three seasons now, and has an overall record of 50-19 since taking over the job from Rick Hoerner in 2019.
"When I took over the basketball job four years ago, I had a lot to learn about the sport, so now it's that same thing here," Melvin said. "I really didn't know what to expect because we have to replace some pretty big names."
Quarterback Dontrelle Denetso, who scored 36 touchdowns both through the air and on the ground, graduated earlier this summer. So too did Kyler Clitso, who collected more than 1000 yards and scored 14 times as both a running back and receiver last season.
Melvin worked as an assistant coach at Bloomfield High School several years ago and has spent the majority of his athletic career playing and coaching football, but admits the challenge of having a team ready to play their first game in less than two weeks is new to him.
"Luckily, having some extended football knowledge helped a lot," Melvin said. "I think the guys have picked up what I'm trying to show them incredibly fast. I had to sit back and think to myself that we actually do look like a football team. I just don't want it to be too complicated right away."
Teaching kids how to play football is not new to Melvin, and he realizes the greatest strength of being a football coach can also be their most glaring weakness.
"Coaches for the most part are their own worst enemies," Melvin said. "As crazy as it sounds, we're not going into this thinking about how to do a lot of different things, we're just going to be really good at a few things."
Melvin is anxious to see what sophomore quarterback Xavier Nez will be able to do on the field this fall. Nez, who played on the team as a backup quarterback last season, also excelled for Melvin on the basketball court, scoring more than 130 points off the bench as a freshman in 23 games for the Eagles.
"(Nez) is light years ahead of where he should be," Melvin said. "He's gotten stronger and faster over the summer, and he's a smart player who will get the game plan right away."
Senior receiver Lucius Hale also will be counted on to provide some offensive firepower, both lined up on the edge as well as out of the backfield. Hale had 15 catches last season for nearly 450 yards, and the expectations for him this season are more of the same productivity.
"Where he didn't carry the ball a lot for us last year, we're going to find a way to get the ball into his hands as often as possible," Melvin said of Nez. "He's going to be a main piece of the puzzle."
Anchoring the offense this season will be their line, with leaders like senior Dayton Yazzie expected to create space for their playmakers.
"We've got some returning seniors who are ready for this challenge," Melvin said. "I think the line is going to be really big for us and how we run this offense."
For more information on the upcoming Navajo Prep football season, check out their official page on MaxPreps.com.