According to head coach Trey Eder, the realignment done by CHSAA for the 2020 Season A football season put some of the best 6-man teams in the state in the same league.
In the realignment, the Southern Conference was split in half with Granada and Cheraw staying in the South East Conference, but Eads, Cheyenne Wells and Kit Carson moving to the East Conference and joining powerhouses Stratton/Liberty and Hi-Plains.
Because of the shortened season, however, the playoffs won’t be accessed by winning the league, but rather by a series or combinations of ratings from the RPI, coach’s poll, MaxPreps Ratings and Packard Ratings. Each of the ratings methods count for 25% of the formula, according to CHSAA. At this point, no one knows how that will look with the six short games in the season, including two games scheduled outside the league, by CHSAA.
Eder commented on the new schedule and new placemen tof the leagues, “The schedule is definitely a change. I understand what they were doing, but it’s disappointing because we developed some good rivalries through the years that we will miss.”
Eder went on to say, “Our schedule is going to be very tough. We have Hi-Plains who we beat in the playoffs last year. They’re going to be tough as the game came down to the very end. Stratton/Liberty has been a powerhouse, too, since they came into 6-man. Our schedule will be tough as all teams are going to be challenging for us.”
Last year Eads made it out of the regular season and through the first playoff round defeating Flagler/Hi-Plains, 59-52, and then losing to Kit Carson in the state quarterfinals, 69-14. The Wildcats went on to lose to Fleming in the 6-man state championship contest.
Eder knows there are some good athletes scattered among the league teams, “The competition has some athletic players. I don’t know much about Stratton except for a kid who was All-State First Team last year. Jaret Lichty will be tough, I’m sure. Every other team in our conference has good kids too. Cheyenne Wells has a couple of athletic kids, and Kit Carson has a tradition of getting deep into the playoffs each year. Graduation hit them hard, but tradition will make them tough to handle.”
The Eagles will begin the season at home on Friday, October 9 when they host Kiowa. According to Eder, “The two outside teams are Kiowa and Deer Trail and I don’t know anything about them. Kiowa is new to 6-man from last year. Deer Trail has been down, but I think they may be on the rise.”
At any rate and however the schedule looks, Coach Eder says his boys are truly excited about getting to play football.
The Eagles only lost two seniors from last year’s team including the second-best rusher and All-State Honorable Mention linebacker, Angel Medina. The rest of the team were mostly sophomores and juniors and have been in the weight room working hard over the long break.
The experience the Eagles will put on the field is led by an All-State First Team running back in senior Damien Barnes. Eder says, “We return a big-time player for us and across the state in 6-man.”
That’s an understatement by Eder as Barnes (190 lbs.) led the state in rushing in 2019 as a junior with 2,098 yards on the season which averages out to 209.8 yards per game. He rushed for 51 touchdowns, received 7 touchdown passes and threw 7 touchdown passes, as well.
Eads will also return a quality quarterback in junior Cade McDowell (210 lbs.). As a sophomore McDowell took his lumps early in the season but grew into the position and ended up 10th overall in the state in passing yardage with 562 yards (56.2 yards per game).
The Eagles also return quality players who will play on both sides of the ball and who really stood out in the blocking and tackling category a year ago. Seniors Zack Fowler (165 lbs.) and Hatch Nelson (165 lbs.) will play key multiple roles. Eder said, “It’s nice to have Zack holding down the middle and back working with our quarterback after being injured late in the season. Hatch, too, will be key to our overall game plan.”
Two defensive players who were sophomores last year return to the gridiron and will be expected to be a force for Eads. They include Donte Sierra (140 lbs.) who led Eads in tackles with 62 a year ago and kick-off returns, and Ty Wilson (140 lbs.) who had 35 tackles. Wilson may also do some kicking for Eads.
The Eagles will also see the return of junior Taite Johnson (225 lbs.) who was severely hurt as a freshman and had to sit out with the same injury as a sophomore. Eder says, “Taite is finally back and he looks really good. He’s a big kid who hit the weights hard.”
Rounding out the team includes senior Brandon Lening (145 lbs.) who came out his senior year after golf just finished up for him. Sophomore A.J. Vasquez (185 lbs.) and junior Chase Stolzenberger (260 lbs.) look as if they have grown and put some weight on in the training room, as well. Freshman John Brown is also a big kid just learning the ropes.
Finally, Eder indicated he will look at a couple of freshmen who helped the success of the Eads Junior High program, “Coming up we have some freshmen who we’ll look to for some big time help this year including Porter Spady and Bo Arnold. They both could see some time on the field.”
Expectations are high for Eads this year and their success will teeter on whether they can come out of the corner punching. Eder says, “Hopefully, we can make some noise in the playoffs. We have a lot of returners to be able to do it. We’ve been down for a few years and finally have a good group of boys. So, hopefully, we can make some major noise this year and get into the semifinals or finals--- that would be awesome.”
Cover: The 2020 Eads Eagles Football Team - (front l to r) John Brown, Brandon Lening, Bo Arnold, Donte Sierra (back l to r) Porter Spady, Damien Barnes, A.J. Vasquez, Cade McDowell, Taite Johnson, Ty Wilson, Hatch Nelson, Zack Fowler. Not pictured: Chase Stolzenberger