The preparation for this year’s Super Bowl game began the minute the clock ran out on last year’s game, according to Melrose football captains Brian Mercer, Jared Botelho, and Cam Hickey.
“Last year when we lost, we said, as a grade and as a team, that we are definitely going back,” said Botelho. “365 days from now we are going back.”
And they are ready to do just that next Saturay.
“I think we are definitely more prepared,” said Mercer. “Last year was the first time, and the first time you do anything, it kind of puts you outside your comfort zone, but now we have been there know the routine, we know how it works, and we are more comfortable with the whole situation.”
Four years of playing together has also made a difference. “This team is really close as friends,” said Botelho. “We have all played together and bonded over the past couple of years, so now we have got to this point, it’s easier to play together.”
“This year we are all good friends and we all have the goal in mind that we need to be leaders to the generations below us,” said Hickey. “We try to set a good example in the classroom, be respectful to adults, and we went to the Common the other day to play flag football with the nine- and ten-year-olds. We’re leading by example.”
That’s the culture of Melrose football, said Botelho. “Melrose football is centered around being a good community leader as a player, and when you are doing that you set good examples for the younger generations so it all comes around.”
This has been a good year for Melrose on the field, and the captains said that was due to a lot of hard work and focus. “We played every game like it was our super bowl,” said Hickey. “We gave 100%.”
“We never looked ahead, we just were in the moment,” said Botelho. “Every day, we just practiced.”
But now they are looking forward to next Saturday. The best part, Mercer said, is taking the field and seeing everyone who has come out to cheer them on. “The game’s just about to start, you come out around the corner and just seeing the whole stadium, it is an experience,” he said.
And that’s because Melrose is a special place to be a football player. “It’s kind of like the small town stereotype, where we’ve got the football team and the entire town is behind us,” said Mercer. “The kids look up to us and they are always at the games—they are probably the ones paying attention the most. We refereed five football games and we played flag football with them at the Common because we like to give back.”