HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Lopez earns All-Permian Newcomer of the Year Award

Most high school sophomores don’t possess the physical or mental skills necessary to play quarterback at the varsity level.
Andrews coach Ralph Mason decided that E.J. Lopez did, and the decision paid dividends for th Mustangs. Lopez directed an offense that averaged 494.2 total yards and 43.8 points per game in an 8-4 season that reached the area round of the playoffs.
Lopez completed 278 of 484 passes (57.4 percent) for 4,174 and 46 touchdowns to earn Newcomer of the Year honors on the All-Permian Basin football team.
“We went into the season not really knowing who we were going to put into that position after Brett Leach graduated,” Mason said. “Markeese Lawrence had been the quarterback in his class coming up through junior high, so he was certainly a candidate. We had another senior we were looking at. During the summertime and after we started our workouts, we basically gave them all equal time and evaluated them daily.
“We just got to the point where we felt like E.J. kind of rose to the top with his leadership. He’s such a competitor. He has a passion to want to play the position. We felt like being able to keep Markeese at receiver and knowing that we would have E.J. for a couple of more years we would start him with the idea that he may struggle early in the season, but by the time we got around to district and the playoffs he would probably be ready.”
And it was the leadership factor, Mason said, that was paramount in making the call to go with Lopez.
“We had quite a few sophomores on our varsity this year and that kind of helped a little bit,” Mason said. “He was already their leader. It was just about winning the confidence of some of the other players. The way E.J. and Luke Armendariz really hit it off to get her — they were so much on the same page — with Luke being a senior I think helped solidify a lot of it.
“The kids looked to him as a leader. He spread the ball around well to different receivers. He was vocal on the field. He’s passionate about making sure we did things right”
Mason said Lopez eliminated any worries early on, starting with 271 yards and four touchdowns in the season opener against Levelland. Lopez totaled 818 yards and 10 touchdowns through three games.
“He kind of surprised all of us because he didn’t wait around for that (learning process),” Mason said. “He started off Game 1 putting up good numbers. He had the big game (387 yards, seven touchdowns) against Seminole in the fourth game where he was the Built Ford Tough Player of the Week.
“He just did things I guess you could say were uncommon for a sophomore in his first year of varsity football. I think it points to the kind of kid E.J. is. He’s very mature for his age. He’s got his priorities and his goals in order. He knows what he wants out of things. He really put a lot into it.”
Lopez kept going, establishing season highs of 35 completions and 525 yards against San Angelo Lake View, a game in which he threw six touchdown passes in the first half.
But, Mason said, there were still moments when Lopez’s youth showed through.
“The downside, 20 interceptions, was something we don’t like and are going to work to cut down,” Mason said. “I know he will in the future, but basically those were learning opportunities. He countered that by throwing 46 touchdown passes. He led us to a very good season.”