Eastlake Quarterback Keith Tarango-Lopez, who wears number 12, did his best Tom Brady impersonation Friday night, leading the Falcons 80 yards and finding Hector Serrano for a game-winning 15-yard touchdown pass with 48 seconds left to play to defeat the (Lubbock) Cooper Pirates 24-21.
Eastlake head coach, Jay Calderon said before the game that being the only game in El Paso – for this round of the playoffs – added more pressure, but his team was excited to represent the city and the team responded to that pressure.
Serrano had dropped several passes throughout the course of the game, but it was the catch he made in the final seconds that shows the team’s resiliency.
“Hector dropped the ball earlier in the game and he was really down on himself, everybody picked him up at halftime told him he’ll get a second chance,” Calderon said. “It came around and he worked hard all year, he deserved a second chance and he mad the most of it.”
Both teams exchanged turnovers in a scoreless first quarter, the Falcons would take a 14-0 lead in the second quarter only to see the Pirates cut the lead in the closing seconds of the first half to make it a 14-7 halftime score.
The Pirates would receive the ball to begin the second half and would tie the game on a 64-yard drive, capped by a quarterback keeper for the touchdown from three yards out by Jarret Doege.
After retaking the lead with a field goal, Eastlake managed to stop the Pirates on a 4th and goal from the one-yard line, taking over on downs with a three-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Three plays later, Cooper linebacker, Jr Erwin would intercept Tarango-Lopez and return it for a touchdown to take their first lead of the game 21-17 with 8:45 left to play.
“We came out with a bunch of nervous energy, it happened to us earlier in the year,” Calderon said. “Our coaches did a great job getting these guys to calm down. Once we calmed down, we got the ball in (Adrian) Chavez’s hands, he made some great plays, some tough runs.”
Chavez was the workhorse in the game, leading the Falcons rushing attack with 148 yards on 19 carries.
Eastlake would attempt a 4th and 4 situation in Cooper territory, failing to convert and turning the ball over on downs with 5:51 left in in the game, but managed to force a Cooper punt with enough time left for the comeback win.
Tarango-Lopez accounted for two of the three Falcons’ touchdowns throwing for a pair while Alex Vasquez ran for another.
“Our guys hung tough, Lubbock Cooper is a great football team, picked to win the region earlier in the year, they have a great coaching staff. My hat’s off to them,” Calderon said. “Our guys were ready to play and refused to lose.”
Eastlake entered their area playoff game against Cooper riding a 10-game winning streak. Their last loss came on their first game of the season against El Dorado.
With the win, Eastlake extends its winning streak to 11 and wins their second-consecutive area championship.
It will be a battle of the birds, as Eastlake will now take on the Lake Dallas Falcons in the next round of the playoffs. That game is scheduled for 3 p.m. next Friday afternoon, in Midland.
“El Paso showed out big time today, I guess they made no secret saying they’re going to bring the storm,” Calderon said. “Our guys weathered the storm and did a good job.”
To see more great pictures from the game, click HERE