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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — High school football players have to be tough to survive the playoffs.

This week, being tough means surviving cold temperatures since game-time wind chill readings for games in Missouri and Kansas will be in the single digits.

At North Kansas City High School, the Hornets football team (9-1) is enjoying its best season in 50 years, and NKC’s starting tight end is serving as a strong role model for younger people in his community.

Caleb Mendoza proves that his music is his message. That’s loud and clear.

On Thursday, the sound of Mendoza’s five-piece drum kit thundered throughout one building at North Kansas City High.

He alternates from one rhythm to another without missing a beat, a skill he’s been mastering since he was a toddler. Mendoza said his parents got him his first drum set when he was only four years old.

“I think I broke it after a few weeks. I was always banging on it,” Mendoza said.

Over a decade on the drums has carried Mendoza, a high school senior, from hobby musician to being a man on a mission.

The Hornets tight end serves as a youth pastor and music leader at Iglesia Cristiana Bautista Palabra Viva, where he makes a joyful noise for up to 300 worshipers every Sunday, banging his drums in the church’s praise music unit.

Mendoza said his mother and brother also play music in the same worship services, which are conducted in Spanish.

“It’s nice to be able to help out the church. My dad is the pastor, so I’m able to do my part. I feel like I’m doing my part in this church,” Mendoza said. “There are a lot of people who are searching for a purpose or something to grab onto. Sometimes, they can get lost.”

As North Kansas City prepared for its playoff game against Staley on Friday night, Mendoza and his fellow Northtown Hornets said this is a calling, and he’s blessed to help young people by serving as a role model.

“He’s one of my favorite people to talk to,” Hornets Coach Leon Douglas said. “He’s interested in politics. He’s interested in having some of those tough difficult conversations, but he’s interested to hear your ideas.”

“From being in school, and seeing a lot of present-day society, it drew me to trying to help people out and give them a spiritual outlet to really focus on and learn,” Mendoza said between whacks on the snare drum.

Mendoza’s report card makes a loud noise, too. His 3.8 GPA led the University of Missouri to accept him as a student in the fall. Mendoza said he hasn’t chosen a major, but he’s excited to become a college student.