John Barnes will always find something to fret about as Los Alamitos' football coach, but having Brad Melsby around for the past three seasons has sure made life easier.
Take last season, for example.
Before the season opener, Barnes worried about how the Griffins would respond after winning their second consecutive Southern Section championship.
The team had a new quarterback, Mike Good, and different personnel on offense, except for Melsby.
"I remember riding on the bus to the game and John told me, 'We are going to throw every pass to Mels,' " said Barry Sher, Los Alamitos' assistant coach. "Brad was the only guy with any experience. He made three or four catches on the drive and got Mike Good off to a great start."
Good was later named Division II player of the year and earned a scholarship to Northern Arizona after helping the Griffins win their third consecutive Southern Section championship.
"If Brad doesn't help Good get off to a start like that, who knows what kind of season we would have had?" Sher said.
Melsby has played for winning teams since Barnes tabbed him a starter at the beginning of the 1992 season. Melsby hasn't missed a game since, and in his 39 career starts on the varsity, the Griffins haven't lost.
"Brad and I were looking through the books the other day, looking at the records he's broken," Sher said, "But that's the record he likes the most--the team is 38-0-1 since he has been here."
Melsby, a 6-foot-1, 183-pound senior, has quietly amassed some other staggering numbers that have put him into the Orange County record books.
He has compiled 2,811 career yards receiving, surpassing Rick Parma's 19-year-old record of 2,767. Parma played at Kennedy from 1973 to 1975.
Melsby also had three touchdown receptions last week in a Division I first-round victory over Bellflower St. John Bosco, giving him 35 for his career to break Parma's record of 34.
Melsby also has 176 receptions. The county record of 177, held by former Los Alamitos receiver George Sagen, figures to fall tonight in a Division I quarterfinal game against Long Beach Poly at Orange Coast College.
The records are nice and Melsby has enjoyed the team's run. Last week, the Griffins tied the Southern Section record by extending their unbeaten streak to 46 games.
But the records and the streak are the furthest things from Melsby's mind.
"We're not trying to extend a streak, we're trying to win a CIF football championship," Melsby said.
That focus is one of the things that sets Melsby apart.
Melsby, a mellow kid who lived in Minnesota until the fourth grade, doesn't like analyzing his success. But his coaches, teammates and opposing coaches are less bashful about it.
"He has a tremendous work ethic," Barnes said. "He sets the example for everyone else on the team."
Said Edison Coach Dave White: "I didn't like going against him, but I respect him. He's the kind of guy everyone wants. He'd be my first-round draft pick."
But Melsby, who also plays free safety, deflects the compliments as easily as he bats away passes from opposing receivers.
He wishes he could have the physique of Griffin wide receiver Tony Hartley. "He looks like he could play in college right now," Melsby said.
He longs for the speed of fellow receiver Stan Guyness. But the receivers feed off each other's success.
"When teams key on Brad, someone else is wide open," Feterik said.
And when Melsby finds the end zone, he always credits his teammates.
"I've been fortunate to play with some great quarterbacks," Melsby said. "I mean, Tim Carey, he's at Stanford, Mike Good at Northern Arizona, and now Kevin Feterik . . .
"I also learned a lot from watching and playing with (former teammates) Donnie (Ruberio) and George (Sagen)."
One of Melsby's biggest fans is his present quarterback, Feterik, a junior.
"Brad told me that playing varsity was just like playing a fast JV game," Feterik said. "Having guys like him make my job real easy. When we need a first down, it's like just throw it to Brad and he'll make the play."
One of those plays came last week.
The Griffins faced a fourth and goal from the 26 late in the second quarter, and Feterik threw an inside screen pass to Melsby.
Melsby caught the ball near the 25, and cut upfield where he weaved his way through numerous would-be tacklers to the end zone.
The score, Melsby's third touchdown reception of the half, gave the Griffins a 31-7 lead.
Said Barnes: "As good as Mels has been all season, he stepped up his performance level last week. It's like he was telling everyone that this is playoff time and it's time to pick it up a notch."
Melsby has always had that extra gear and Barnes has used him to the fullest this season.
On defense, Melsby has 50 tackles (30 unassisted) and five interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown.
Melsby's classroom achievement, a 4.2 grade-point average and a 1,200 score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, has helped attract attention from recruiters at Stanford, Arizona State and Minnesota.
UCLA Coach Terry Donahue has called Melsby, hoping to persuade the Griffin receiver to become a Bruin next season.
Donahue sees a lot of things about Melsby that Sunset League coaches have already discovered this season.
"People say Brad's not fast enough, by he always gets open and has 60 to 70 catches a season," White said. "He's not flashy, but he gets the job done. The bottom line is that he's a winner."
Melsby at Los Alamitos
Senior receiver Brad Melsby and Los Alamitos have had a near-perfect three years together:
Year Rec. Yards TD W L T 1992 31 506 5 13 0 1 1993 77 1279 17 14 0 0 1994 68 1026 13 11 0 0 Totals 176 *2811 *35 38 0 1
*Orange County record