Entering the 2016 season, one could argue that the El Dorado Aztecs were the team to beat in El Paso. Through most of the season, they validated those arguments by finishing 8-2 during the regular season and 6-1 in District 1-6A, earning the Aztecs a share of the district title. the Aztecs ran into a tough Midland High squad that put up 73 points and ended El Dorado’s season in the bi-district round which left head coach Ruben Torres was looking for more at the end of the season.
“I would give us a B plus on the season,” he said on how he would grade his first season at El Dorado, “I felt like we had our opportunities to be the outright district champion and we didn’t really come through there. However, even with the new faces, new coaches and new system that they had to face, I thought our players handled it well.”
El Dorado was an offensive juggernaut in 2016, averaging more than 523 yards and 45 points a game. Receivers Tyquez Hampton and Jorge Hernandez were big time playmakers for quarterback Cedarious Barfield, who amassed more than 4,600 yards and 55 touchdowns last season.
“I was really comfortable in the system this past year,” Barfield said, “Coach Torres and the staff have really helped me out and it seemed like all year, me and my teammates were able to make plays on offense. It was a great year.”
As strong as the offense was, Torres said implementing his defense was a little bit more difficult. The defense was able to come up with stops when they needed to more often than not, but Torres is hoping to see some big improvement for year two, especially considering the fact that they will have eight returning starters on that side of the ball.
“We need to get better up front. Size is one thing that we really can’t control, but attention to detail and aggressiveness is something we’re putting a lot of stock into,” Torres said of his defense, “Ultimately, we just need to work on communication with guys getting out of their comfort zone and we need them to be able to talk to each other.”
Another challenge for the Aztecs in 2017: their opening schedule. The Aztecs will take on a strong El Paso Eastlake team from 5A and then hit the road for consecutive weeks for games against Wolfforth Frenship and Midland Lee. Torres says that those early games will be a good gauge for his 2017 Aztecs.
“It’s going to be tough. Going on the road is going to be a nice test for us and it’s not an easy road at all. It puts everybody on edge and our kids and coaching staff know that we have to be at our best every day.”
The Aztecs are hoping that they can continue the offensive machine going, particularly with Cedarious Barfield back under center.
“We’re just going to have to trust each other,” Barfield said, “We have a couple of new guys coming in on offense and so we have to know our goal and build a close connection with the team.”
Cameron Hill and Corey McCoy are currently slotted to take the spots of Hernandez and Hampton in the roster and each player had their big moments last season and Torres wants to see more out of them.
“Both guys are going to be big players for us,” he said of the two receivers, “Those guys and everyone who else stepped in at least got some game experience and that’s going to be big for us.”
With all the turnover that comes during the offseason, Torres is confident that his 2017 El Dorado Aztecs may be even better than last year’s teams. It just will be a matter of putting all together.
“I honestly think we’re going to be a lot better. I think having a full year in the system offensively and defensively is going to be huge. The exciting part is seeing the player or players stepping up into new roles and I think we’ll be even better next year because of it.”