The Eastlake Falcons are one of the newest programs in El Paso and have already made a big splash. After winning a district title in 2015, the Falcons are back in the playoffs in 5A and are looking to accomplish what very few El Paso teams have accomplished: win three straight area championships.
“I think being in this position shows what this program is all about,” said offensive lineman Robert Lazarin, “It shows that all the hard work that we’ve put into this team is not easy to accomplish but we’re capable of achieving it.”
The Falcons entered the season as the favorites to win a very crowded District 2-5A again, but they had to face some adversity early on in the year. This included everything from an 0-2 start to injuries to key skill players, including Adrian Chavez and leading receiver Ivan Avina. The defense has also been prone to injuries as well.
“We’ve had to overcome more injuries than usual. In fact, I think we’ve started the same four guys in the secondary twice all season,” said head coach J.J. Calderon, “We’ve had guys that have filled in well at other positions and I think that has made us stronger as the season goes on.”
Despite all the injuries, the offense has been in good hands under senior quarterback Keith Tarango-Lopez. The senior dual threat has put up almost 3,000 yards of total offense for the Falcons this year and will be a big part of the offense for Eastlake as they take on Lubbock Monterey Friday afternoon in Midland. But, as Tarango-Lopez points out, the team has come a long way from the start of the year.
“Chemistry is a big thing with us,” Tarango-Lopez said, “Whether it’s quarterback or receivers or our offensive line and our defense, we all try to push each other and tell each other ‘Let’s go!’”
After falling to 0-2 on the year, the Falcons faced a Parkland Matadors team that also brought in a high-powered offense. In a game that went back-and-forth, Eastlake eventually came up with two big fourth-quarter stops near the goal line to beat Parkland 60-49. Not only was it the first win for the Falcons, players and coaches agreed that it was the turning point in their season.
“After losing two games in a row, it got into our head a little bit,” Tarango-Lopez said, “so we worked even harder and pushed ourselves to come out the next game and win.”
“That win was huge,” said linebacker Aaron Scott, “We really buckled down to get that win against a good Parkland team.”
As the Falcons prepare to take on the Plainsmen, Calderon is confident in his team’s ability to get back to the third round and credits the lessons learned from each of the last two years in accomplishing his goal.
“We just learned that you have to be consistent,” Calderon said, “You have to try and be balanced and our guys understand that every play is going to be like the playoffs and you have to have that mentality and I think we’ve been able to be better each and every year.”
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