Harrison's Al Melo, center, is the Gazette Preps Football Coach of the Year.

It’s a nice thing to say: 11-1. It’s about as much fun as you can have outside of CSU-Pueblo’s ThunderBowl, site of the 3A final.

Harrison football followed up an undefeated regular season by ending a long and confusing streak, securing the school’s first-ever playoff win on Nov. 9 against Holy Family. Harrison was previously 0-7 in playoff games and had lost every game by double digits.

The Panthers ran up against eventual state champion Palmer Ridge in the state quarterfinals, suffering their only loss 51-14 at the hands of the Bears.

But that doesn’t diminish what the Panthers accomplished, and coach of 12 years Al Melo earned Gazette Preps Coach of the Year honors.

“I just thought our kids were amazing all year. They were really diligent in their preparation,” Melo said. “Just the way they attacked on game day… We got the results because of how they prepared in practice.”

First team all-state selections Aumiere Shedrick (1989 all-purpose yards, 18 TDs) and dual-threat quarterback Orlando Westbrook-Sanchez III (2336 yards, 18 TD passing, 817 yards, 19 TDs rushing) led the way for Melo as Harrison kept climbing.

“I’ve been coaching 23 years, and I haven’t had a quarterback on any team I’ve coached like him,” Melo said. “He’s a sensational player and even better young man.”

Melo said those two won’t be replaced easily, but he has a good core coming back.

“We had a great group of seniors that laid down a foundation for those guys to succeed,” he said.

Through thick - back-to-back 8-0 starts and playoff appearances - and thin - one win in 2012 - Melo said his approach as head of the Panthers hasn’t changed. They’ve just had a “good run of talent,” and a healthy dose of school spirit.

“The kids are the same, the preparation is the same,” he said. “We have a great school. Kids in our school are really proud of Harrison High School.”

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