2016 was another solid year for El Dorado. The Aztecs won a share of the District 1-6A title and were considered by many as one of the top teams in El Paso. But their season ended much earlier than expected in the bi-district round against Midland High and there’s a sense of unfinished business on the field which has served has good motivation during the spring.
“I think we’re a lot further along than we are last year,” said senior quarterback Cedarious Barfield, “As a team, I can sense us coming closer together.”
“I’m really proud of these guys for how they’ve battled,” head coach Ruben Torres said of his team’s overall play this spring, “It was a tough offseason but now it’s starting to come together.”
Torres is entering his second season at El Dorado and so far this spring, he sees his team already making strides from where they were a year ago. The most improvement he’s seen is coming from the defensive side of the ball.
“It’s been night and day,” Torres said of his defense’s improvement, “Last year, I think there was some hesitation to buy in. I think us being consistent and the kids getting settled in and understanding the system, it’s made everything a lot crisper.”
The players also feel a comfort level on the defensive side of the ball that they say they didn’t feel last year.
“Our defense has really competed well against the offense this spring,” senior cornerback Davion Kinsey said, “Last year, we kept getting killed by them but I’m excited to see how far we’ve come along.”
“The defensive line and linebackers have really showed out,” linebacker Matthew Rodriguez said of his unit, “We’re definitely getting there.”
One area that Torres feels confident in is his offense. Led by senior quarterback and Division I prospect Cedarious Barfield, the Aztecs appear to be just as explosive as they were last year. That’s saying something given that El Dorado averaged 523 yards and more than 47 points per game.
“Offensively, I think we’re going to be just as explosive as we were last year,” Torres said, “What we’re trying to do now is work different personnel packages in based on the guys we have coming back.”
Barfield will also have some new targets at his disposal. Wide receivers Jorge Hernandez and Tyquez Hampton are gone, but rising Cameron Hill now has his opportunity in the spotlight. Hill finished with 561 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior and is ready to step in behind the top two receivers.
“Being behind good receivers like Jorge and Tyquez really taught me a lot,” Hill said, “This year, I’m going to have take on that role and be a leader.”
“People talked about Jorge and Tyquez but Cam was a big help last year even when he missed a couple of games,” Barfield said of his leading returning receiver, “This year, he’s come in not only as a great receiver but also a great leader.”
The Aztecs will also have to be ready for a very tough first half of the season. Non-district games include a stiff test against 5A El Paso Eastlake, road games at Wolfforth Frenship and Midland Lee, and games against Eastwood and Montwood to start District 1-6A play. Both Eastwood and Montwood are expected to be playoff contenders.
“Having success early will be a key for us,” Torres said, “We have a tough schedule to start off and we have to get through that. I think the experience that we have coming back will help. Their confidence is high and I told them that I don’t like sharing. We need to find a way to win that district title outright but there’s a process to it. As long as we stick to it, I think we’ll be just fine.”
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