Jamell Bedford doesn’t lack confidence.
The Merced High senior feeds off that confidence, making him a nightmare to block for opposing lineman.
“My job is to make sure our linebackers don’t get touched,” Bedford said. “If I’m lining up against someone, my mind-set is I’m better than you. You’re not going to stop me.”
Not many did.
Bedford was named the Central California Conference’s top defensive player after helping lead the Bears to a conference title.
Bedford is also our choice as the Sun-Star Defensive Player of the Year.
“What sets Jamell apart is he’s not just a one-gap player,” said Merced head coach Rob Scheidt. “Yeah, he can occupy blockers, but he also has the speed to chase people down, make sacks, to make big plays.
“He’s a great athlete with his size and speed. It’s something high school players don’t see very often with inside players on the D-line.”
At times Beford was just unblockable. He finished with 72 tackles and 7 and 1/2 sacks.
More important than any stat for Bedford was the league title after falling short his first two years.
“The title meant a lot,” Bedford said. “It was very heartwarming. It felt good inside as a Merced Bear to win the CCC. We brought it back where it needed to be.”
Bedford came to Merced High three years ago as a sophomore from the Bay Area. He had the size, strength and speed, but lacked technique.
“We knew he was a talented kid because of his physique,” Scheidt said. “The issue was he didn’t have a lot of experience playing organized football. As a sophomore he did a good job, but he was running around blocks. Once he developed good hand technique, he learned how to sustain gap integrity and how to defeat blocks across his face his abilities were enhanced across the board.”
He was a team captain this year. It was an honor he took seriously.
“My role was to make sure everyone was doing their job,” Bedford said. “In order to do that, I had to do mine. I had to get off the ball and play with a lot of energy.”
Despite his 6-feet, 273-pound frame, Bedford was able to run down sweeps from behind. The havoc he created in the backfield helped the Bears defense surrender just under 14 points per game during CCC play.
“We all just clicked together as a defense,” Bedford said. “We were the ‘Black Shirt’ unit. We really came together when we put on that same color shirt. I had a lot of great teammates. I played with Anthony Munoz for three years. I had great teammates.”
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.