Confidence and expectations are “through the roof” at El Paso Eastwood, a program ready to bounce back after a disappointing 5-5 finish in 2016.
— Tony Venegas (@advenegas) August 14, 2017
As the Troopers opened preseason practice at midnight Monday morning, they started that journey without one of their most talented playmakers.
It was reported and confirmed over the weekend that senior quarterback Seth Ochoa would not be part of the football team in 2017 to focus on baseball. Ochoa, a starting shortstop, is committed to Texas Tech and sat out baseball last season after tearing his ACL in his left knee playing football.
Head coach Julio Lopez had touted Ochoa as one of the best quarterbacks in West Texas. The decision was a surprise, but he’s preparing to move the rest of the team forward.
“We wish him the best of luck since he decided to go all baseball and focus on his career,” Lopez said of his quarterback, “I hope that 10 years from now that he’s making millions and inviting us to a major league game one day but we have to focus on the guys that we have.”
With less than three weeks to go before Eastwood’s opener at Midland Christian, there is now a quarterback battle going on during preseason practice. Sophomore Chris Castaneda and junior Darius De Anda will both compete for the starting job according to Lopez and are each ready for their opportunity.
“We feel really confident in both Chris and Darius,” Lopez said, “We feel that one of them is going to emerge out of fall camp and we feel really good about our expectations going into the year.”
As a sophomore last year, De Anda did see time on the field last season, including the game against Permian where Ochoa was hurt. Now a junior, the signal caller is ready to show what he can do to earn the job.
“That experience is really going to help this season,” De Anda said, “I know we run a fast system but having that knowledge now should really help on the field. I also learned a lot from Seth and Evan (Aguilar) last year on how calm they were and how they led the team and that should help as well.”
Meanwhile, Castaneda enters his first season on the varsity team as a sophomore. A quarterback with a strong arm and a bigger build, he enters the 2017 season ready to contribute in any way that he can.
“I can bring a lot of different things to the table from passing, running and making reads,” Castaneda said, “I’m ready to do whatever is asked of me. I’ll be there.”
That confidence provides some ease for Lopez as he figures out who comes in to officially replace Ochoa. Even with a new signal caller in 2017, the third-year coach won’t stray from the up-tempo offense.
“We’re going to have our quarterback run game back in the mix,” Lopez said, “We weren’t going to do that as much with Seth coming off a torn ACL. We just feel like that our system will allow one of them to be successful down the road.”
Lopez also acknowledged that it would take time, but is confident that whoever is named the starter will be able to lead the Troopers back to great success in 2017.
“Early on, I think we’re going to have to manage and put them in good spots with play calling and game planning. They’re going to play fast and keep the defense on their heels. The hope is that by the start of district play, they’re peaking at the right time and are ready to go.”
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