The El Paso Eastlake Falcons entered Thursday night’s District 2-5A opener with the El Paso Parkland Matadors desperate for a win after an 0-2 start. After more than three hours, the Falcons prevailed in a 60-49 shootout that, ironically enough, was secured by stout defense in the second half.
The first half of the game started off with a bang as Parkland’s Patrick Sullivan took the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Eastlake quickly responded less than a minute later with a 21- yard touchdown pass from quarterback Keith Tarango-Lopez to Nathan Macias. Just like that, it was 6-6 less than 90 seconds into the game and the shootout was on. Both teams marched down the field with ease, but did so in different ways in the first half. Parkland sophomore running back Deion Hankins delivered two first half touchdowns as part of an astounding effort of 42 carries for 291 yards. Senior running back Jacob Mendez added 11 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown of his own late in the first half.
It was the Falcons’ aerial attack that led the way as Eastlake senior quarterback Keith Tarango-Lopez finished the game 19 of 29 for 393 yards and five touchdowns. He also added 131 yards and three scores on the ground. The first half saw two touchdown catches from Ivan Avina, and one touchdown catch each from Macias and Eric Fierro.
The third quarter turned into the Patrick Sullivan show. Sullivan hauled in two touchdown passes in the third quarter, including a 17-yard pass that gave Parkland a 47-39 lead with 6:54 left in the third quarter. He finished with 10 catches for 129 yards and three touchdown catches. As it turns out, that would be the last touchdown for the Matadors.
Fierro and Tarango-Lopez each added a score that gave Eastlake a 54-47 lead heading into the final quarter and Emilio Rios powered his way for a 27-yard touchdown run that gave the Falcons a 60-47 lead with 9 minutes to go in the game.
As mentioned earlier, the Eastlake defense shut the door on a Parkland comeback, stopping the Matadors on fourth down for three consecutive drives in the second half, two of them coming inside their own 5-yard line with Parkland threatening to score. A bad snap over the punter’s head gave Parkland two points late, but the Matadors were unable to get any closer.
Eastlake is now 1-2 overall and 1-0 in District 2-5A and will play at El Paso Riverside next Friday. Parkland falls to 2-1 and 0-1 in District and will host El Paso Bel Air next week.