It’s been a whirlwind last three seasons for the Canutillo Eagles. Two years ago, the Eagles made history as the first El Paso area team to make it to the state semifinals. After missing the playoffs last year, Canutillo is back as one of the best teams in the El Paso area, currently 7-0 and leading a very competitive District 2-5A.
“It’s been a real pleasant surprise because we don’t have a lot of superstars,” said head coach Scott Brooks, “We don’t have a lot of size, but these kids have all played really hard all year.”
The formula for success for the Eagles this year revolves around two things: the running game and defense. The Eagles are averaging over 236 yards per game on the ground, led by senior running back Aaron Moya, who went over 1,000 yards rushing for the year two weeks ago against Ysleta. Moya credits a change in focus for his improvement this year.
“With this being my last year, every time I touch the ball I always want to score,” Moya said, “I think with that mentality, that’s what has helped me become a better runner.”
As for the Eagles’ defense, they have been stout all year, giving up an average of just over eight points a game. That’s two points better than the 2014 Class 5A Division 2 state semifinalists. The entire unit has been strong, but Brooks has been impressed with the development of his front seven.
“We played a lot of juniors last year, especially our skill kids,” Brooks said, “They got experience and our defensive line has done a really good job. They’ve never played varsity and they’ve done a great job and so have our linebackers.”
That defense will have one of its toughest challenges of the season on Friday, when the Parkland Matadors come in to face the Eagles on their blue turf. The Matadors enter Friday night’s game featuring an offense averaging 551 yards per game with the state’s leading rusher in Deion Hankins.
“He (Hankins) is probably going to get one or two big plays and we just have to limit them,” Brooks said, “If he gets one or two, we can probably live with it but if he goes off like he has on other people, it’s going to be a long night for anybody who plays them.”
“We just to need to keep our eyes right,” said cornerback and wide receiver Joseph Paz, “We can’t let anything behind us and we have to wrap up on defense.”
Regardless of the result this Friday, the Eagles are still in good shape to make the playoffs for the first time since making that run to the semifinals. Looking back on that team, Brooks acknowledged how special that year was.
“You have to have some luck,” he said, “We got the right draw that year. Everything went right, we never lost a key player or anything like that.”
Brooks also said that many of the seniors on this year’s team traveled with that team two years ago and that experience has proven to be very valuable for the players this year.
“We saw what it takes and how great it felt to go that far, so we want to go back there,” Moya said, “We’re going to do whatever it takes to get back there because it was such an awesome feeling.”
While the Eagles have looked the part as one of the El Paso area’s best teams, their main focus is getting ready for Parkland and finishing the season strong.
“We still have to get into the playoffs, we’re not in yet,” Brooks said, “That’s our goal right now to get in. It looks good for us, but we have to get in before we worry all about that stuff.”