ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Eldorado returns just one starter on each side of ball
When talking about an Eldorado High School football team, it is important to remember that the Eagles’ coach, Charlie Dotson, is a master of misdirection.
It would be inaccurate to label Dotson as a disciple of the Lou Holtz, we-couldn’t-beat-the-Socorro-JV brand of coachspeak, but Dotson is nevertheless skilled at it. The question for the Eagles is how seriously do we take Dotson at his word?
To hear Dotson tell it, Eldorado – the Journal’s 2011 preseason No. 4 in a vote of coaches – is undersized, inexperienced, already banged up, and burdened with a difficult schedule.
“This will be, by far, my most challenging year,” Dotson said. “If we get to the playoffs, it’ll be good.”
Experience teaches us that the Eagles usually find a way to become relevant, sooner or later. But there is certainly a grain of truth to Dotson’s warnings.
Eldorado lost five critical players off a team that reached last season’s state quarterfinals – and was one failed 2-point conversion from the semifinals.
Quarterback Marcus Jaramillo, running back Chris Sedillo, receiver Tyler McCulloch, interior lineman Willie Pounds and tight end/linebacker Josh Day graduated. Each in his own way leaves a huge vacancy.
Dotson likens this group to his 6-6 team two years ago.
“We’re gonna have our ups and downs,” he said.
That is to be expected, with only one returning starter on each side of the ball.
“Two starters coming back is unbelievable to me,” Dotson said.
One of them is senior guard Diego Gomez, who sounds a little more upbeat than his coach.
“The expectation at Eldorado is always to compete for a state championship,” Gomez said. “And we hope that’s not going to change.”
Sam Gentry, a 6-foot-5 senior, steps in at quarterback for Eldorado. George Pacheco, a 5-6 junior, is arguably the team’s best athlete and he’ll pick up the running slack for the graduated Sedillo.
But the Eagles need to replace two great receiving targets in Day and McCulloch, and Dotson is still trying to find a suitable center, which he said is the most important position on that unit. It’s an extra concern because many of the teams on the Eagles’ schedule feature a big nose tackle.
“I’m worried about getting snaps off,” Dotson said.
The team took a big hit early in training camp. Matt Givens, one of the team’s best players and projected as a two-way starter on the line, broke his foot the first day the Eagles were in pads, and he’s likely to miss most of the regular season.
Defensively, the entire front group is new. The player that illustrates how Eldorado is transitioning can be found in the form of sparkplug Alex Gonzales – all 5-feet-5 and 215 pounds of him.
“That,” Dotson said with a laugh, “is our replacement for Willie.”
The 300-pound Pounds always had to be accounted for. Gonzales will be a little harder to find.
“It’s big shoes to fill with Willie gone,” said Gonzales. “I just figure I’ll be able to disrupt things if I stay low, slant hard, and free up my linebackers to make hits.”
The first part of the schedule, which opens with West Mesa, also includes Rio Rancho, Clovis and Mayfield. Dotson said this team could be OK and still be 1-4 or 0-5 by midseason.
“A lot of teams are going to underestimate us,” Gomez said, “because of our size. But we’re gonna give ’em hell.”
So after all of Dotson’s worries, is there any good news?
“We have a good senior group,” he said. “They’ve been around the last four years, and they have a lot of pride in Eldorado, and a legacy to uphold.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal