Steady Meland a leader on the field for Pine Bush

By Justin Rodriguez

Section 9 Football Insider

Pine Bush — Quarterback Haakon Meland began his varsity career as a freshman back-up with the plan being that he would gain seasoning late in games that were already decided.

Then came Week 4 of the 2015 season: Meland moved to No. 1 on the depth chart after starter Brendan Watson went down with an injury. Meland’s first assignment came against Class AA powerhouse Newburgh.

“I got hit on the first play and I was like ‘OK, let’s go.’ It was a great learning experience,” said Meland, now a senior.

Meland has held down the quarterback position ever since and has evolved into Pine Bush’s stoic leader. By virtue of Pine Bush’s Wing-T offense, Meland doesn’t put up big-time stats. His HUDL tape isn’t highlight reel material.

However, Meland, who has drawn interest from Army, is one of the most reliable, durable and resourceful players in Section 9. He could be in for a big 2018.

“Haakon has every quality that you want in a quarterback,” Pine Bush coach Jim Wright said. “The thing is, this is a four-back system. We are spreading the ball around to four different guys. This year, I think you are going to see more stats from Haakon. If he was in the spread, he would be throwing all over the place.”

Meland rushed for 361 yards and eight touchdowns last year, adding 251 passing yards and five touchdowns. The Bushmen rushed for 3,030 yards as a team and that wouldn’t have been accomplished without a big-blocking offensive line and Meland’s ability to run the offense.

You need smarts to play at West Point and Meland has that box checked. He serves as another coach on the field for Wright, recognizing defensive tendencies, sniffing out potential bad plays, while helping the entire offense with all of their assignments and reads.

Meland’s also tough, not afraid to take a hit and is a gifted athlete. He is a five-tool baseball player who hit .394 as a centerfielder last year. On the football field, opposing coaches respect his talents.

“I think Meland has a very interesting skill set,” Warwick coach Greg Sirico said. “He is a really tough kid and when I saw him at Camp of Champions this year he was a very impressive passer. He has a good arm and I think he’s one of the best athletes in Section 9. He is definitely a player.”

Added Newburgh coach Bill Bianco: “(Meland) is doing exactly what he should be in that offense. He’s athletic and distributes the ball, but when he does run, he does it well. (Meland) has been given a lot of responsibility in that offense and he’s very good at taking care of the ball.”

(Pine Bush quarterback Haakon Meland runs the ball against Minisink Valley last year.)

Wright hinted that Meland will play more of a role in the offense this year. Pine Bush returns running backs Anthony Potts (723 yards, four touchdowns last year) and Xavier Martinez (666 yards, six touchdowns). Junior running back Chauncey Smith could also make plays for last year’s Class AA runner-ups.

Asked if he’s like a bigger role in the offense, Meland cracked: “I’m 100 percent for it.”

Meland added: “It comes down to whatever helps us win games. Stats don’t matter to me because we are winning games. If we go out there and light up the scoreboard, that’s all that matters to me. That’s all I care about.”

Follow Justin Rodriguez on Twitter at jrods9insider; Email: jrod845sports@gmail.com