El Paso High School Football: Six Things to Watch in Zero Week
In of the best games of the opening week of the 2016 high school football season, 2015's 1-6A District Champ El Dorado and 2-5A's 2015 District Champ Eastlake meet in a non-district tilt to kick off the season, and expect a bunch of points to light up the SAC's new video board.
El Dorado is the preseason 1-6A favorite led by Washington State commit and wide receiver Tyquez Hampton and talented linebacker Kevin Henderson.
Eastlake boasts one of the most electric and exciting players in the city with running back Adrian Chavez returning who ran for 1,533 yards and eight touchdowns last year as a junior.
The big questions for El Dorado is who replaces the graduated Austyn Hill at quarterback, and what will the offense will look like under new head coach Ruben Torres.
Athletic Junior Cedarious Barfield appears to be the next man up under center for Aztecs who will certainly look get Hampton touches early and often. El Dorado's run/pass percentages will certainly draw the attention from fellow 1-6A members as the Aztecs usher in a new coaching staff.
Hampton who went off for 147 yards receiving last year in a 70-49 season opening win against Eastlake will draw plenty of attention from the Eastlake defense.
For the Falcons, executing and scoring six in the red zone parlayed with quarterback Keith Tarango-Lopez taking care of the ball will be keys to keep up with what could be another high powered El Dorado offensive attack.
Eastlake's defense, which could be the most athletic defensive personnel group in District 2-5A looked a little leaky in a scrimmage against Pebble Hills, but senior linebacker Chris Sepulveda is a true sideline-to-sideline backer who will also play a factor in this matchup.
Both schools will end up living towards the top of their district standings, but this game could dictate not only El Paso powerhouse pride, but who the best team in the city is in the early going.
For the first time in a while, El Paso saw a drastic coaching landscape change among the areas' signature programs.
Most notably, Chuck Veliz left his long time post at Montwood, with former UTEP offensive lineman Areil Famaligi taking over the reigns of the former east El Paso power.
Another longtime El Paso coaching figure, Jerry Walker retired the triple-option run heavy offense at Parkland, and enter Josh Kirkland who has infused new energy at Parkland coming over from Houston Westbury where he was an offensive coordinator.
Ruben Torres had tremendous success at Ysleta in a short time, and deservingly took over a loaded El Dorado program with Jim Althoff riding into the sunset after leading the Aztecs to their first district title in 2015. Torres is a rising coaching star in El Paso, and will keep the Aztecs' 6A momentum going.
Marcus Graham upset Torres and Ysleta in the 5A Bi-District round last year while at Burges. Graham takes over a struggling Socorro program who should benefit from a culture overhaul boasting physical offensive and defensive lines.
Neal Routledge takes over at Burges to replace Graham. Routledge, a former Burges grad, comes home after a successful run as Del Valle's offensive coordinator the past six seasons. His work at Del Valle included grooming current University of Colorado quarterback Steven Montez.
2-5A will welcome two first time head coaches as former Bel Air defensive coordinator Joe Martinez takes over at Ysleta for Torres.
Tony Pallanez has a tough task in ending Riverside's post season drought as he comes over from Clint to take over a Riverside program who will be without star quarterback Aaron Samaniego this season.
And while he's been at helm of the upstart Pebble Hills program for the past couple of JV seasons, Mark Torres brings his first year Spartans into the 1-6A gauntlet, pairing a nice sibling rivalry with his brother Ruben over at El Dorado.
El Paso has seen a changing of the guard recently as legendary, and highly successful coaches have retired, or moved on. Giving a number of first time head coaches, and budding coaching stars a new chance for new legacies, and new powerhouses to form or revive.
Even though this highly anticipated game kicks off at 4 p.m. on a Thursday, the Del Valle and Americas matchup will certainly be one to keep an eye one.
Americas returns the most productive returning player in the city and D-1 prospect senior running back Josh Fields who has offers from New Mexico and UTEP. Fields enters the season with 2,674 career rushing yards to go along with 15 career touchdowns.
The Blazers also have another D-1 prospect on the other side of the ball in linebacker Kolton Lindeman.
Americas' running attack will certainly test Del Valle's defensive toughness early and often, but can the Blazers keep the Conquistadores out of the end zone themselves.
Raymond Montez, (yes, Steven Montez's little brother) takes over at quarterback, and will have running back Ray Morales back, along with wide outs Devyn Morales, and Evan Villalva which projects to be an explosive offensive attack in 2016.
These two programs have been the model of success for El Paso high school football with two elite coaches, and two elite programs meeting up in a long awaited battle to open the season.
It was one of the best games, and biggest upsets of 2015.
Burges and Ysleta meet up Thursday night with new head coaches, but some of the talent from last year's exciting playoff tilt remain.
The Indians return one of the more productive, and experienced quarterback/running back tandems in the city with Damian Solis and Rey Flores who combined for more than 3,000 yards of total offense in 2015.
Burges will boast a number of speedy athletes, led by wide out and safety Odell Graham and running backs George Frias and Allen Rabb.
Once again both squads appear to be clear playoff contenders in their respective districts, and this game could set the tone for those hopes and dreams.
Last year's playoff game ended on the final possession of the game, and this year's season opener could very well end the same way.
Andress and Chapin are the yearly favorites in 1-5A, but can a team like Bowie, Jefferson, or Burges find themselves on top of the 1-5A mountain?
Andress looks poised, and loaded for their first district title run since 2010 with a stout and talent rich defense led by Xavier Williams who has 230 career tackles heading into his senior year.
Safety Otho Redding is another D-1 caliber player who picked off two passes, and forced two fumbles as junior last year. Will Ferlot could end up being El Paso's most dynamic offensive athlete as he will be the Eagles quarterback.
Chapin welcomes in a new quarterback Anthony Baird to pair with two of the top running backs in district 1-5A with junior sensation Matthew Zubiate, ands senior Angel Soto who returns after missing last year with a concussion.
Chapin's defense returns four of their top six leading tacklers from a year ago making District 1-5A a two horse race at the moment between the northeast rivals.
But can another team catchup with the two dominate teams in 1-5A of the past decade-plus?
Now 2-5A is a little deeper with teams and talent who can fight for a district tile, but Eastlake still remains the favorite.
Del Valle, Ysleta, Parkland, and Canutillo figure to be the teams fighting for playoff position in 2-5A.
Parkland could be the dark horse with renewed offensive and defensive identities, and talented returning players like running backs Jacob Mendez, and sophomore Deon Hankins. On defense, defensive tackle Josh Wells, and defensive back Patrick Sullivan are sleeper D-1 prospects with returning experience for the Matadors.
Don’t sleep on Ysleta's quarterback/running back combo, and it seems like every year Del Valle and Jesse Perales is always in the mix.
At the moment its Eastlake and everyone else, but once district play starts the weekly drama that will be District 2-5A could change the standings demographics any given Friday (or Thursday) night.
Montwood heads up north to face Frenship, Coronado faces Midland Lee in Midland, and Eastwood hosts Midland Christian to open the season.
For the Rams, ushering a new season on the road against Frenship will be interesting to watch. Montwood returns some talented skill players, and a nasty defensive line, and will lean on the defense early on in the season.
Coronado looks to bounce back after a rough 2015 season, and how will Eastwood move on without two of El Paso's most productive quarterback/wide receiver tandem in quite a while.
Later in the year teams like Franklin, Eastwood, Del Valle have some interesting out of town matchups that will be interesting see play out.
These out of town week zero games seem winnable, and could set the tone for the trio of 1-6A squads.