Mercado provides the anchor Ken West
The Kenmore West Blue Devils lost a heartbreaker in Week 1. After taking an early 12-0 lead in the first quarter, the Blue Devils fell 27-24 to Niagara-Wheatfield in Class A1 action Saturday.
This loss shouldn't be too much cause for concern as Kenmore West started 2022 0-1 before winning the next seven of eight games and clinching a playoff berth.
Plus, they still have one of the area’s top big-men anchoring their offensive and defensive lines.
The importance of good linemen goes under the radar until there’s a lack thereof, though, it’s tough for a player like Hezekiah Mercado to go unnoticed.
The 6’ 3”, 300-lb senior is going into his fourth year on varsity, having totaled 92 tackles, and 10.5 sacks in his time there. Mercado had a breakout season just a year ago, notching a career-high 54 tackles, nine sacks, forcing four fumbles and taking one of those fumbles for a touchdown. Those stats are much more impressive when you put his position into perspective.
Kenmore West head coach John Haynes has been alongside Mercado for the past three years on varsity and now his fourth as he heads into his senior season.
“His versatility makes everyone's lives easier come gametime, he has a nose for the football and moves well for his size,” Haynes said.
The versatile big man can line up anywhere on the line. On defense, Mercado will play anywhere from nose tackle to defensive end depending on the formation and on offense he plays center while in a spread formation, and tackle in the Blue Devils' power formation.
Looking past the physical aspects of football, Mercado brings a sense of leadership that's tough to come by. After being named a captain at the team banquet, the then-junior headed into his senior year as someone who became vocal during off-season workouts and training camp.
“When around it's like having another coach here, his teammates buy into him, he’s a great leader and someone who’s easily coachable,” Haynes said.