The concern? Offenses the Eagles face may light them up, too.
“I don’t know if we can stop the run, and I don’t know if we can rush the passer,” Dotson said.
Indeed, the development of the Eagles’ new defensive line and linebacking corps could determine how Eldorado projects this season. The Eagles, the Journal’s preseason No. 3 selection in the metro area, were the Class 6A state runner-up to Cleveland last December.
However, they’ll start this season — Friday against Las Cruces — with myriad question marks on that defense, particularly in that front seven.
Which shifts the talk to the need for the Eagle offense to perhaps carry a larger share of the load since the defense has only three returning starters.
“We should put up a lot of points,” said senior receiver and part-time running back Dominic Sandoval, arguably the Eagles’ best player.
“But (defense) is where we have to improve the most,” he added. “We’ll get there, but we need a lot of work.”
To that end, Dotson said Eldorado may start both a sophomore and a freshman on the D-Line.
Matt Denis subbed for injured Jayce Jackson twice at quarterback during last season’s playoffs, including in the title game. All things considered, he acquitted himself nicely, given his inexperience. Now Denis is the starter.
“That playoff experience? It’s easy to build on,” said Denis.
His progress will be a vital ingredient. Sandoval will give him help; so will three returning offensive linemen, plus fullback Elias Baker — all 255 pounds of him.
“How Matt runs, we’re gonna run,” Dotson said. “It’s up to Matt.”
Eldorado at a glance
Coach: Charlie Dotson (10th year; 74-34)
Last season: 10-3; lost 48-35 to Cleveland in 6A championship game
Returning starters: 5 offense, 3 defense
Key players: Matt Denis, sr. (6-0, 150, QB); Bryce Wade, sr. (6-6, 230, OL/DT); Adam Clark, sr. (6-3, 263, OL/DT); Dominic Sandoval, sr. (5-9, 150, slot/DB); Trenton Gaither, sr. (6-0, 178, WR/DE); Elijah Gudelj-Cox, jr. (5-8, 167, RB/S); Darren Serna, sr. (5-8, 151, LB/RB); Elias Baker, sr. (5-9, 255, RB); Dominic Anderson, sr. (6-0, 168, WR/S); Isaac Mambo, sr. (5-10, 191, G/DE).
Outlook: Several important offensive weapons graduated, but the Eagles look well stocked with the likes of Sandoval, Baker, Gaither and Anderson, and three returning starters up front, led by Wade and Clark. Denis is the new starter at QB, and his performance will be scrutinized, if only because of the wild success of several of his most recent predecessors at that position. Finding a playmaking middle linebacker is one of Dotson’s true worries, and indeed Eldorado will need to find multiple playmakers on the defense if it is to get through its super-demanding district.
(x-denotes District 2-6A game)
Aug. 26, Las Cruces (W), 7 p.m.
Sept. 2, Volcano Vista (W), 7 p.m.
Sept. 10, at Mayfield, 1 p.m.
Sept. 16, at Albuquerque High (M), 7 p.m.
Sept. 23, at Valley (M), 7 p.m.
Sept. 30, OPEN
x-Oct. 7, at Clovis, 7 p.m.
x-Oct. 14, Sandia (W), 7 p.m.
x-Oct. 21, at Manzano (W), 7 p.m.
x-Oct. 28, La Cueva (W), 7 p.m.
x-Nov. 5, Santa Fe (W), 1 p.m.
Circle the date: The trip to Clovis is a tough assignment, as historically Eldorado has never had much success at Leon Williams Stadium. Moreover, the Wildcats’ strength — running the ball — is a bad match-up for the Eagles.