SPRINGDALE -- Springdale High junior Ivan Fuentes was standing on the Jarrell Williams Bulldog Stadium sideline during a game when he came up with the nickname "Salvatron" for senior receiver Salvador Sandoval.
The name is a spin on Detroit Lions all-pro receiver Calvin Johnson's Megatron nickname. By the next morning, Salvatron was there to stay.
At A Glance
School: Springdale High
Notable: His 803 yards, 46 catches and six touchdowns all lead the 7A-West, with no other receiver past the 500-yard mark. … Has 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash … Has five 100-yard performances in Springdale’s seven games, including four 150 plus-yard games a career-high 172 against Springdale Har-Ber.
"They always make up nicknames for me," Sandoval said. "That one just stuck."
And it fits.
Johnson has earned a reputation as arguably the NFL's toughest cover over the years. Sandoval has burst onto the scene for the Bulldogs and become easily the most-productive receiver in the 7A-West this fall.
Salvatron was better than Squirrel, another nickname bestowed on Sandoval by his teammates. But he wasn't necessarily thrilled about the new nickname at first.
"We were all like, 'We're calling you Salvatron,'" junior quarterback Fuller Chandler said. "And Salvador goes, 'No, absolutely not. You're not calling me that.' And then we explained to him how big of a compliment it was and he was like, 'Oh, OK. I guess so.' He's kind of accepted it. He'll respond to it."
Chandler has likely benefited more than anyone from the 6-foot-2, 156-pounder's emergence this year after Sandoval had limited playing time as a junior. Chandler leads the conference with 1,588 yards, more than half of them to Sandoval.
Sandoval's 803 receiving yards and six touchdowns on 46 catches also lead the conference. In fact, no other 7A-West receiver has more than 500 yards this year.
"I thought he had the capability of doing it," Springdale coach Shane Patrick said. "I didn't obviously know to the extent. But I knew he had the ability to be one of the best receivers in the conference, if not the best."
And he has been.
Sandoval didn't enter the season as well known as fellow senior receivers Chris Owens or Zach Burton, both returning starters for the Bulldogs. But he's put together five 100-yard performances in Springdale's seven games, including several huge games.
He had 152 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against Greenwood, then posted 100 yards and a score at Bixby, Okla., 159 yards and a touchdown against Rogers Heritage, a career-high 172 yards and a touchdown against Springdale Har-Ber and 155 yards and a career-best two scores against Fayetteville.
His size and speed have made him a difficult cover for defenses, even now that they know what's coming. His teammates have known what's coming since the spring.
"Oh, I knew," Chandler said. "I knew from the first time we threw. I told everybody. Everybody was talking about how good Chris and Zach were. And I said, 'They're awesome. But there's somebody you haven't seen that's going to be our best receiver, as far as numbers go. Because nobody knows about him.' So I said to watch Salvador Sandoval.
"Before the season, everybody in the locker room said, 'Salvador's going to be all-state this year.' And everybody outside's like, 'What the crap.' And we knew."
Sandoval appears destined for an all-state spot.
He started to figure out he was headed for a big senior year while playing summer 7-on-7, but the real wake-up moment may have come during spring practice.
"I missed the very first spring practice because I didn't wake up," Sandoval said. "And they took me off for a little bit, so I was like 'I've got to earn it back.' Then I ended up getting my spot back."
He's earned it back, plus some. He isn't sure whether he wants to play college football. But if he decides that's what he wants to do, Salvatron should have the opportunity. There are multiple Division II schools interested.
"He's got the skills to do it," Patrick said. "He's a 4.5 guy that guy jump and he's long and real fluid in his movement. He's a good route runner and accelerates to the ball. He's got good hands, so I don't see any reason why he couldn't have an opportunity to play for somebody."
Sports on 10/23/2014
Print Headline: "Salvatron" A Playmaker For Springdale