TIPTOE ON THE SIDELINE -- James Kimble walks a tightrope down the sideline before being driven out of bounds at the 4 yard line early in game during the  Eldorado Eagles 51-44 win over Iola Bulldogs at Llano Stadium on Saturday, November 14th. The win secured the Bi-District Championship for the Eagles. -- RANDY MANKIN | THE ELDORADO SUCCESS
TIPTOE ON THE SIDELINE -- James Kimble walks a tightrope down the sideline before being driven out of bounds at the 4 yard line early in game during the Eldorado Eagles 51-44 win over Iola Bulldogs at Llano Stadium on Saturday, November 14th. The win secured the Bi-District Championship for the Eagles. -- RANDY MANKIN | THE ELDORADO SUCCESS
The Eldorado Eagles defeated the Iola Bulldogs 51-44 on Saturday, November 14th at Llano Stadium in Llano to claim the 2A Bi-District Championship.

The win is a bittersweet one for the Eagles since it also represents the team’s final game of the 2020 season. Eagles Head Coach Jon Long said Monday that he had notified Troy Langfeld, head coach of the D’Hanis Cowboys that the Eagles would forfeit the Area Championship Game due to a surge in COVID-19 cases at SCISD as well as an escalating number of cases in Eldorado and Schleicher County.

Long noted that it is every coach’s dream to win the final game of the season and bring home a trophy, but said this isn’t what he had in mind.

Eldorado got off to a quick start Saturday in Llano and took an early lead when James Kimble carried the ball in from eight yards out. Korbin Covarrubiaz carried the ball in for the 2-point conversion to put the Eagles up 8-0.

David Barajas hauled in a pass from Covarrubiaz, lowered his head, and flattened a couple of Bulldog defenders on his way to the end zone to extend the Eagle lead. Eldorado’s 2-point try failed leaving the Eagles with a 14-0 lead with 6:54 remaining in the first quarter.

Kimble found the end zone a second time in the opening quarter, this time from 16 yards out. Covarrubiaz carried the ball in on the 2-point try to make the Eagles lead 22-0 with at the 2:05 mark.

“We were really pleased with how we started the game. The guys came out and did what we preach all the time – play fast, play physical and have fun,” Coach Jon Long said after the game. “I think we released a little bit in the second quarter and that’s not what you do, especially in the playoffs.”

Eldorado would need every bit of its 22-point advantage when the Bulldogs changed tactics in the second quarter and started playing hide-the-ball with the Warbirds.

SHELL GAME

Iola began lining up with its quarterback in a shotgun formation, but with a running back just behind the line of scrimmage, in the center/guard gap.

Sometimes the Bulldog center would snap the ball to the quarterback. Other times, however, the center would bring the ball up and hold it so the running back could take it, or a man in motion could retrieve it.

What followed then was a series of fake pitches, handoffs and even a pretend fumble or two that left the Eagles defenders scratching their heads and scrambling to find the ball.

Head Coach Jon Long and Defensive Coordinator William Robledo implored the officials to flag the Bulldogs for illegal procedure on the gimmick play, but it never happened.

“The snap from the center has to be one continuous motion,” Coach Long said after the game. “Their center was pausing with the ball held behind him.”

The Bulldogs gadgetry was effective, however, and Iola managed to mount a comeback.

“Iola was a good team,” Long said. “They fought back and came from behind. My hat’s off to them. I was impressed with their kids.”

EAGLES STARS SHINE

Kimble had a big day for the Warbirds. He carried the ball 18 times for 106 yards and four TDs.

Meanwhile, Eagles quarterback Korbin Covarrubiaz turned in another stellar performance, completing 15 of 22 passes for 246 yards and two TDs, one of those a 58 yard strike to Jason Covarrubiaz for a TD that erased Iola’s only lead.

David Barajas also caught a TD pass from Korbin Covarrubiaz and Cooper Meador kept the Bulldogs defense on its heels all day as he caught four passes for 94 yards. One of those was a 41-yard gain that would have been a TD if Meador could have stayed in bounds.

Eldorado’s other touchdown came when Korbin Covarrubiaz ran the ball in from 10 yards out. Mason Hutto kicked the Eagles’ only extra-point of the game. Jonathan McGee, the Eagles regular kicker, missed the game because he was marching with the Mighty Eagle Band at the Area Marching Contest in Lubbock.

The Eagles defensive effort was led by David Barajas with two solo tackles, 17 assists and a tackle for loss. Korbin Covarrubiaz tallied two tackles and 13 assists while Cooper Meador had a tackle and nine assists.

Nino Tambunga intercepted a pass in the end zone to deny the Bulldogs a 2-point conversion following a touchdown.

“Defensively, senior captain David Barajas played very well,” Coach Long commented. “Iola ran some things that they had never shown and we had never seen. It took us little while to adjust to it but our coaches and kids did. Cooper Meador and Jose Contreras did their jobs at the outside linebacker spot well, too.”

THE GAME WITHIN THE GAME

After spotting the Eagles a 22-point lead, the Bulldogs comeback began early in the second quarter. By halftime, Iola had whittled Eldorado’s lead down to six points and the two teams went to the locker room with the score standing at 28-22.

The Eagles kicked off to begin the third quarter and Iola used their first timeout of the half before they ran their first play from scrimmage. Whatever the Bulldog coach said to his team during that timeout, it worked because Iola promptly scored on a 72 yard run. The Bulldogs added a two-point run to take a 30-28 lead.

Eldorado grabbed the lead again midway through the third stanza when Covarrubiaz air mailed a precision strike to his cousin Jason Covarrubiaz who caught the ball in stride and raced away from a Bulldog defender to complete the 58-yard touchdown throw and catch.

Iola scored again with 8:46 remaining in the game but failed on the 2-point conversion attempt leaving the score knotted at 36-36.

From there, the Eagles offense ground out a pair of scoring drives while the defense shut down the Bulldogs and forced them to burn their two remaining timeouts.

Kimble dove in from a yard out for his fourth TD of the game and Cooper Meador caught a pass from Korbin Covarrubiaz for the 2-point conversion, giving the Eagles a 44-36 lead with 5:26 left to play.

The Eagles defense got the ball back and Eldorado’s offense was off to the races again with Korbin Covarrubiaz running the ball in from 10 yards out. Hutto’s kick gave Eldorado a 51-36 lead with 2:55 left on the clock.

The Bulldogs mounted a frantic comeback effort and managed to drive 70 yards for a TD and 2-point conversion to pull to within seven points of the Eagles.

But, it was too little, too late for Iola. With a mere 34 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts left to spend, the Bulldogs’ final hopes were pinned to an onside kick attempt. Those hopes were dashed, however, when Marcos Morin pounced on the ball for Eldorado.

The Eagles gathered near midfield after the final buzzer and hoisted the Bi-District trophy in celebration.

In a matter of hours, the Eagles season would end with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis and a forfeit of the Area playoff game.

But, in the moments after the game, Coach Long sang the praises of his team.

“Korbin played well on offense. He was in command for most of the game,” Long said and he went on to give credit to the offensive linemen, including Phillip Garcia, Mason Hutto, Tyner Cheek, Seth Parker, and Braxton Elias.

“They did a great job all day. They blocked the run very well, maybe the best we had all year. They protected the quarterback too,” Long said. “As an O-line guy, I can say I am proud of how that group improved and progressed the whole year. Coach Ram Moreno has done a fantastic job with those guys.”
Long also had high praise for junior running back James Kimble. “He ran the ball with ease,” Long said. “He looked smooth on the field.”

Once it became obvious that the Eagles season was indeed over, Long praised his senior players and trainers for their contributions “I want to say a special thank you to David Barajas, Tyner Cheek, Phillip Garcia, Mason Hutto, Kayden Rodriguez, Isa Vasquez, Mason Doan, Tori Pina and Ashlynn Porter,” Long said on Tuesday.