EL PASO- Upon his return to Cleveland back in 2014, LeBron James stated that “Nothing is given, everything is earned.” In that context, he was referring to Northeast Ohio. That saying is also in line what Burges head coach James Routledge told his team prior to Friday’s game in Northeast El Paso as the Mustangs travel to take on the Andress Eagles in a battle of top teams in District 1-5A.
“We want our team to understand that they’ve earned the right to play in this game,” Routldege said, “The reason you play is that nothing’s decided beforehand.”
The Mustangs are coming off a solid 25-7 win over an improved El Paso Austin team last Thursday night that saw quarterback Matteo Serrano run for three scores and ride a strong defensive effort. However, Routledge wants to see more consistency from his team against an Andress team that’s known for its speed.
“Andress is a very talented team,” Routledge said, “They’re well-coached and we’re just telling our team to do what they’re coached to do and have faith. I’d like to see us play two halves together this week.”
In last year’s matchup, Burges and Andress were in a tight game in the first half until Eagles cornerback Otho Redding intercepted a Serrano pass and took it back 95 yards for a touchdown late in the first half that spurred a 37-13 Andress win. Now a senior, Serrano is seizing the rematch as a new opportunity for his team.
“Just reflecting on that game, it lingers especially since I threw that pick and I didn’t play well,” Serrano said, “As a team, I think this is an opportunity for us to prove that we’ve gotten better.”
On the other sideline, the Andress Eagles have won four in a row after a 1-2 start to the season. Head coach Jeff Woodruff credits his team on just focusing on getter better as a team both physically and mentally.
“Every week is a new week with new challenges,” Woodruff said, “What you’re hoping is that your team is maturing and dealing with adversity in the proper way. You never have the same lineup twice.”
One constant in the lineup has been junior quarterback Dominique Smith. The left-hander has been a driving force for the Eagles offense, throwing for ___ yards and ___ touchdowns to a receiving core that is now starting to get in sync after dealing with injuries and late arrivals.
“He knows the offense and the system,” Woodruff said of Smith, “He’s much better at that and he’s starting to get to know his receivers and where they’re going to be on certain plays.”
Those receivers will be key for Smith and they’ll have an advantage of side. The Eagles have five receivers listed at 6-2 or taller.
“They take everything seriously in practice,” Smith said, “They make sure they’re running the right routes and that they’re crisp and clean so that it translates to the game.”
Smith knows he and the rest of his team will have to be ready for a balanced attack of the Mustangs as they prepare to start the home stretch of the season.
“They’re a very well coached team,” Smith said, “We know that so we just have to execute and make sure we have everything right.”
The two teams face off at 7 p.m. MST at Andress’ Allan Sepkowitz Stadium.
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