Two experienced teams will square off on Friday night as the second game of a doubleheader in Midland as the Canutillo Eagles take on the Abilene Cooper Cougars in Class 5A Division 2. The Eagles defeated El Paso Burges 33-26 at home while the Cougars took down Dumas 37-14 in Lubbock.
Canutillo enters this area round matchup still unbeaten at 11-0 and with a belief that they could make another deep playoff run like the 2014 team that went to the final four. The formula for the Eagles success this year has been running the ball and playing stout defense.
On the ground, they are missing top running back Aaron Moya who was injured just a couple of weeks ago. Look for quarterback Danny Alvarez and junior Damian Martinez to fill in for Moya’s production. When the Eagles do throw, Joseph Paz is the go-to target. He averaged nearly 27 yards a catch and scored 11 times this year, 4 of those scores coming against El Paso Eastlake for the District 2-5A title.
On defense, Paz will be called upon to make big plays in the secondary, especially against 6’5” receiver Myller Royals on the other side for Abilene Cooper. Middle linebacker Erick Lopez and junior lineman Nathan Eggleton will look to make life difficult for the Cougar offense. They have come up with clutch plays when needed all season long and will need another strong performance on Friday night.
Abilene Cooper will look to spread the ball out a little bit more, but have shown good balance this year. Quarterback Austin Smith has two quality receivers in Royals and Jwan Hong to go to, but also has two reliable backs to lead the ground game in Tyrees Whitfield and Devin Johnson. They are going to present lots of challenges to a quick, but undersized Eagles defense.
Defensively, the Cougars have improved over the season. They give up around 24 points per game, but this includes giving up 61 and 55 points in consecutive games early in the year. If the Cougars want to come out on top, the front seven will have to lock down on the Eagles’ rushing attack to force them to throw.
Finally, Abilene Cooper has some history on their side against El Paso teams. They haven’t lost to an El Paso team since 1967 and have won their matchups by an average of four touchdowns. However, this will be the first time the Cougars will face Canutillo and it will be compelling to see how two teams with different styles fare Friday night at Grande Communications Stadium.
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