As one of the newest schools in the El Paso area, the Eastlake Falcons have quickly become recognized as one of the most consistent teams in the Sun City. Last season, they had the chance to do something that very few (if any) El Paso teams had accomplished and that was advance to their third straight regional semifinal game in a row. They fell in the area round game to Lubbock Monterey and cut the streak short.
It was a tough way to end the season, but they’ve used it to come together this spring.
“We’re really getting into a rhythm and the whole team as a whole has looked really solid,” said Falcons linebacker Josh Molinar, “There’s definitely a stronger sense of camaraderie since we all know and are comfortable with each other.”
The Falcons had been known for having a high-flying offense, but head coach JJ Calderon says that the makeup of his team will reflect mostly on the other side of the football, calling it “the strength of our team.”
One of those key defensive pieces expected to play a big role is linebacker Joshua Molinar. The rising senior missed all of last year due to an ankle injury and is ready to get back out on the field and show what he and the defense can do.
“If there’s one thing that’s tough on defense, it’s getting the unit to glue together. It’s just something we’ve built over time since middle school. We’re ready to get out there and show what we can do.”
“Josh was injured all of last year and we missed him on the field,” Calderon said of his senior who went to state in wrestling, “But he’s a heck of an athlete and we’re glad he’s back healthy and he’ll lead our defense up front.”
While the optimism is high around the Eastlake defense, the offense still has plenty of talented upperclassmen ready to break through. One of those rising seniors is quarterback Justin White. For the last two seasons, White sat behind Keith Tarango-Lopez and learned everything he could from him and did see playing time last season. Now, it’s his time to lead to the team and the southpaw is ready to embrace the challenge.
“Keith is a great guy. I learned a lot from him,” White said, “He got after it, taught me a lot and all I want to do is fill those shoes, do better and take us farther into the playoffs. There’s always work to do and hopefully this season we can make some noise.”
“Justin has stepped up for us,” Calderon said, “He’s been a backup the last two years and he’s learned a lot. It’s his time and he’s definitely taken advantage of it. We’re very pleased with him.”
Calderon is also confident that the quarterback is ready to take the reigns that feature weapons that include receivers Emilio Rios and Ivan Avina along with running back Zeke Jones.
“I think we have all the tools to be just as good as we were last year on offense,” Calderon said.
Like many of the best teams in El Paso, the Falcons will be tested early. In their first three games of the year, Eastlake plays District 1-6A tri-champion El Dorado and defending District 1-5A champion in Chapin. To open district play, Eastlake then has to travel to Parkland to face Deion Hankins and the Matadors. The last matchup between the two teams ended up in a shootout.
“We always like to schedule quality opponents early,” Calderon said, “We’re going to play good teams because I think it helps us stay focused throughout the offseason. We’ll see how it goes but I just think being comfortable with what we’re doing will be the biggest key for us this season.”
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