Warbirds 28-12 win over Miles breaks 5-year playoff drought
The Eldorado Eagles football team is one win away from its first district title in five years. If Coach Danny Wilhelm has his way that win could come as early as Friday night when the Eagles travel to San Angelo to take on the TLC Academy.
The Warbirds got their fourth straight district win last Friday, defeating the visiting Miles Bulldogs 28-12, guaranteeing the green-clad Eagles their first playoff appearance since 2007. That’s when the team shared the district championship with Christoval. The team’s last outright district title came in 1997.
Eldorado’s path to the playoffs was far from certain and ran through a gauntlet of teams that began the season ranked well above the Eagles in District 6-1A.
The first of those was Bronte, which the Warbirds dispatched 20-6 in a driving rain storm on the Longhorns’ home field.
The Eagles then got an exciting 27-26 win over Christoval at home, went on the road to pound Menard 52-20, and returned to Eldorado where they defeated Miles 28-12 last Friday night.
Coach Danny Wilhelm relied on his defense early in the game as the Eagles won the opening coin toss and deferred their choice until the second half. For their part, the Miles Bulldogs elected to receive the opening kickoff but couldn’t move the ball, a scenario that would repeat itself several times during the night.
“Our defense played well and contained Miles early, giving us the chance to take the lead,” Wilhelm said after the contest.
Eldorado got its first score when running back Rico Martinez found the end zone from one-yard out. Hector Reyes added the extra-point and the Eagles led 7-0 with 2:55 left to play in the opening quarter.
When time expired on the opening quarter, Bobby Martinez was too busy to notice as he hauled in a Blaine Mitchell pass and sprinted 64 yards to the end zone. Again, Reyes added the extra-point, giving Eldorado a 14-0 lead after one quarter of play.
Tres Whitten scored the Eagles third TD of the night, but he had to work for it, twisting and turning in order to break the grip of a Bulldog defender who clung stubbornly to his jersey. When he finally broke free, Whitten raced 45 yards to the end zone as his exposed left shoulder flapped in the breeze.
Once more, Reyes booted the extra-point through the uprights and Eldorado led the Bulldogs with 7:37 remaining in the first half.
That’s when the Bulldogs, who had yet to manage a single first down, came to life. They gained 40 yards on three straight plays but were denied a score when Brian Shriver intercepted a pass in the end zone.
“We played well on both sides of the ball,” Coach Wilhelm noted. “We executed our assignments and the kids played with a lot of heart.”
The score remained at 21-0 until early in the third quarter when Miles scored on a 15-yard run by Dawson Halfman. The Bulldogs then went for a two-point conversion but were stopped short of the goal line, making the score 21-6 at the 10:30 mark in the third period.
Eldorado added its final score a few minutes later when Blaine Mitchell carried the ball in from four yards out. Hector Reyes added his fourth extra-point of the night to give the Eagles a 28-6 lead.
The Bulldogs would score again in the fourth quarter when Halfmann ran the ball in from six yards out. A failed two-point conversion attempt made the final score 28-12.
“That was a big win for us,” Coach Wilhelm stated after the game. “We got going early, and that was important.”
The coach was clearly pleased that the victory clinched a playoff berth for his Eagles.
“We’re happy to be going back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007, but we don’t want to settle for a playoff berth, we want a district championship!” Wilhelm said.
Eldorado rushed for 239 yards in the game with Rico Martinez picking up 106 yards of that on 20 carries. Meanwhile, quarterback Blaine Mitchell connected on three of four passes for 90 yards and a TD. He also picked up 70 yards on 16 carries.
Hector Reyes hit all four of his extra-point tries giving him 19 points on the season.
Defensively, Jackson O’Harrow led the Eagles in tackling with 10 while Will Barker counted for six stops. Bobby Martinez and
Tres Whitten each intercepted a pass to stop a Miles scoring threat.
A win in one of the two remaining regular season games will make that a reality.
“If we beat either TLCA or Irion County we clinch the outright district title,” Wilhelm added. “I prefer we make it happen Friday night against TLCA.”
Neither the coach nor the team are taking anything for granted.
“I know people get tired of hearing about it, but we need to continue improving.” Wilhelm said, “All we have to do is keep getting better each week...something this team is very capable of.”
There are several good reasons Wilhelm wants to claim the district title sooner rather than later, but perhaps the best reason is the path that such a win would give the team into the state playoffs. By defeating TLCA the Eagles would then enjoy a bye next week, while savoring their district title before playing Irion County in the final game of the regular season. Secondly, the district champion enjoys a bye week following the regular season before making their playoff debut in the Area round.
“It would be nice to have the ability to use those byes to prepare for the playoffs, heal our team up and get ready for the next challenge,” Wilhelm said.
And, it seems the Eagles are growing accustomed to responding to their coach’s challenges.
“First we set a goal of making the playoffs,” Wilhelm stated. “Next we set a goal of winning an outright district title. Then we will go after the goal of going undefeated in district,”
Tomorrow night’s game is slated for 7:30 p.m. in San Angelo Lakeview Stadium near the Tom Green County Coliseum.
Everyone is encouraged to make the trip and support the Eagles in their quest for a district championship.
Those who cannot travel to San Angelo can listen to the game live on KLDE 104.9 FM.