Salt River Eagles
Coach: Troy Head
Last years record: 4-4
Returning starters offense: 3, including quarterback Luis Lopez, who wasn’t asked to do a lot a year ago, but will be called upon more this season since he’s the only skill player with extensive experience.
Returning starters defense: 3, including defensive tackle Jenz Nastacio, who started four games a year ago and returns bigger (6-0, 210) and more experienced.
Schedule: 8/27 vs. Tanque Verde; 9/4 at Valley Lutheran; 9/10 at Salome; 9/18 at Superior; 9/24 vs. Fort Thomas; 10/1 at Duncan; 10/8 vs. Chandler Prep; 10/15 vs. Cibecue.
Sept. 4 vs. Valley Lutheran: A loss to the Flames last year was all that stood between the Eagles and a 3-0 start. If they can reverse that result, they’ll carry a lot of momentum into their region games.
Sept. 18 at Superior: This game will let the Eagles know just how close they are to contending for a playoff berth, and perhaps a region title.
The Eagles are a relatively young program but have been on the cusp of breaking through to become a contender in 1A. They’ve reached the playoffs once in their history and will need a young group of players to develop quickly if they are to get back.
Quarterback Luis Lopez split snaps last season and should provide offensive stability. In 1A, where they play 8-man football, offensive production is key and having an experienced quarterback should help the Eagles get on the scoreboard more often. The biggest key is finding a replacement for running back Ricky Martinez, who gained the majority of the Eagles yards.
Up front, the Eagles return senior lineman Hoss Smith, who lived up to his name last year and provides a physical presence in the trenches. Salt River has some big bodies returning (six players over 200 pounds) and if they develop into a solid unit, both offensively and defensively, that will make them a formidable opponent.
Coach Troy Head also is excited about the addition of two newcomers to the program. Senior Ramo Wood, a receiver and defensive back, and sophomore Lorenzo Ruiz, a running back and defensive back, will likely start both ways for the Eagles after not playing a year ago.