Photo: Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball.com

EL PASO- After winning three in a row, the Eastlake Falcons are on a mission to continue their perfect 2-5A record against the Hanks Knights on Thursday at the Socorro ISD Student Activities Complex.

The Falcons (4-1, 3-0 in District 2-5A) have stormed out to their 2017 season with some interesting wins under their belt and have made their place in the district. They opened up their season with a defining 34-12 win against Class 6A foe El Dorado. After dropping a significant 28-14 loss to Chapin, who is also a non-district team, they dominated a talented Parkland team 51-37. Then, they went and beat Riverside 48-7 and Bel Air 55-21.

This Eastlake team is accustomed to scoring a lot of points, averaging 27.0 points per game. This is what truly makes them tough to stop.

“I don’t think you can slow them down a whole lot,” head coach Aaron Price said. “They’re a fast team and they have a lot of playmakers and you have to try and corral them and not let them get big plays. What we need to do is to be able to match them scoring and contain them enough to put us in a manageable game.”

The backbone of the Falcons offense is the connection of starting quarterback Justin White and receiver Ivan Avina. White has thrown for 1,276 yards thus far and 10 total passing touchdowns, while Avina has 490 yards off 29 receptions with five touchdowns.

Avina just returned to the gridiron from having surgery on his thumb, which he sustained an injury last month.

El Paso Eastlake WR Ivan Avina will be a go-to target for the high-flying Falcons offense. (Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball.com)

“He’s tough. It killed him to be out the game and a half that he missed but he had a quick surgery,” head coach JJ Calderon said. “He’s not in a whole lot of pain, he just has to get used to catching the ball differently but our mentality hasn’t changed. We’re going to get Ivan the ball whether it’s on a run or a pass. He just wants to contribute any way that he can.”

With Avina on a constant watch, Calderon has emphasised how important it has been that other players have stepped up for their team.

“Zeke (Ezekiel Jones) has just been really consistent,” he said. “He understands our offense and what we’re trying to do. Him and (starting quarterback) Justin White have really stepped up while Ivan’s been out in recovery. We also have receivers like Milo (Emilio Rios) and Adrian (Donacio) who have done well filling in for Ivan. We’re really pleased with how our offense is clicking right now.”

On the other side, the Hanks Knights (2-4, 1-3) are having to deal with significant injuries that have plagued their team.

El Paso Hanks enters Thursday’s game with Eastlake looking to snap a three-game losing streak.(Tony Venegas/TexasHSFootball.com)

Two weeks ago, starting quarterback Austin Guerrero broke his leg in the Knights’ 63-23 loss to Parkland.

“It was a pretty traumatic injury for our team and our emotions,” Price said. “It was one of those ugly breaks.”

The Knights are now having to adjust offensively to the significant injury, but dropped a disappointing loss to Riverside last week, 33-21.

“Last week, we just turned the ball over against an option team that’s a solid team in Riverside,” Price said. “You can’t give the ball up six times and expect to do too many good things. We fought our way back into it, but we just didn’t have enough at the end.”

The keys to the offense have been left to running back Rashon Peterson, who has already accumulated 514 yards on the ground, and quarterback Isaac Pando. Against Riverside, Pando had an important game, totaling three touchdowns, 250 yards through the air and 90 rushing yards. He’s a dual-threat attack that is filling in exceptionally for Guerrero.

“He runs the offense correctly,” Price said. “He’s gotten better with his reads in the pass game. He throws a nice ball and he can run with it when we need him to. Not a whole lot has changed with him in there as far as our system and what we need to do.”

Kickoff between the two is slated for 4:00 p.m. MST at the SAC.

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