ELDORADO, TX —The Eldorado Eagles outlasted Haskell last Friday night thanks to a flurry of Indian turnovers to start the second half. The 30-14 victory was Eldorado's tenth win of the season and the school's first playoff victory since 2000. They now move into the second round of the Class 2A Division II playoffs.
From there, the difficulty level jumps way up. Eldorado's opponent in Levelland this week will be the top ten ranked, nine-win Wheeler Mustangs.
Wheeler comes into this game after holding off a furious second half comeback from 7-4 Archer City. Wheeler jumped out to a 40-18 lead at the break but were outscored 29-14 in the second half. The two teams lit up the stat sheet and combined for 55 first downs and 1,139 yards in the 54-47 barn burner.
Archer City had no answer for junior Hesston Marshall, Wheeler's 6 foot, 160 pound star running back. Marshall had 42% of the game's total yards (475!) and five of the games touchdowns. He is extremely fast and elusive, the type of talent that every team wishes they had but few ever do.
Wheeler is the best team Eldorado has faced all season. They are better than Christoval and Winters, and they are much better than Miles. But they are not invincible, not by a long shot.
The Mustangs feasted on a weak district schedule with the exception of their season finale against #4 Wellington (10-1). Wheeler lost that game, and the de facto 5-2A district title, by a score of 38-18. Their only other loss of the season was in week two against #5 Hamlin who is now 8-2. The score in that one was 44-15.
Excluding the 20 point loss to Wellington, Wheeler outscored their other four district opponents 240-14. The record of those teams is a combined 12-29, and none of them had more than five wins. Wheeler has three wins against teams with a winning record, Clarendon (6-5), Gruver (7-4), and Archer City (7-4). Clarendon was a 33-8 blowout, but Gruver and Archer City were both one touchdown games. If Wheeler wins Friday, Eldorado would be their most impressive win.
The Eagle's offense should be able to keep up with them. Against Haskell last week, Head Coach Michael Johnson seemed to find a rhythm with his play calling. Running back Santiago Hernandez had one of his best games of the season and found open space regularly. QB Kevan Covarrubiaz probably had his most efficient day on the ground as well. His offensive line repeatedly opened holes on designed runs out of shotgun, and he opened the game with two quick scores.
At points in the second half, it seemed like Eldorado ran only three plays: run Hernandez outside to the left or right, run Covarrubiaz outside to the left or right, or throw it deep to his four receivers streaking to the end zone. There was little variation, but it did not matter, Haskell could not stop them.
Eldorado's defense will have the most challenging role of the game, trying to stop Hesston Marshall. Against Haskell, a run heavy team with a lot of athletes they try to get the ball to, Eldorado's front seven played better as the game wore on. They allowed a 59 yard touchdown drive on Haskell's opening possession, but did not allow another point until the game was out of reach.
Anchored by 6 foot, 211 pound junior David Barajas and 6'3" 173 pound senior Jaakan Jurecek, Eldorado's defensive line is big, athletic, and smart.
They eventually figured out Haskell's run game and played up to the challenge when backed up on their own goal line on several occasions. They will not be able to contain Marshall by themselves, though, and will need big efforts from linebackers Eric Reyes and Edgar Muniz. Marshall will be able to get to the second level, and Eldorado's defensive backs will have to take the correct angles in pursuit if they want to prevent good runs from turning into touchdowns.
It will be an exciting game, and Eldorado is on a nine game win streak with no signs of slowing down. Their past two games were both for trophies (the district championship against Christoval and Bi-district championship last week), and they played up to the hype and some. If they play at the level they are capable of, there is no reason why their first playoff win since 2000 has to be their last of the 2010's.
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. at Levelland's Lobo Stadium Friday night.