EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – It’s no secret that LJ Martin is arguably the best player to ever play football at Canutillo High School, after he rushed for over 5,000 yards in his high school career.

He’s not the kind of player that can be easily replaced by Scott Brooks and his coaching staff at Canutillo, but even without Martin, the Eagles still like what they’ve got coming back in 2023.

Martin is now expected to play as a true freshman running back at BYU, but back at Canutillo, the Eagles defense is once again loaded. Eight defensive starters return from a season ago, many of them juniors like TJ Locklin and Lalo Carrillo. On offense, quarterback Jeremiah Knox returns after starting in 2022, as does wide receiver Rene Huerta.

“Last year if we got in a bind, we gave it to LJ. Now we’ll have to be a bit more creative and come back to things we did before LJ. But our kids will play hard no matter what, so we feel confident,” said Brooks.

Every returning player for Canutillo was a part of the Eagles’ second straight trip to the Class 5A Division II Regional Semifinals last November and even without Martin, that experience is irreplaceable.

The defense should keep Canutillo competitive in the majority of their games and the Eagles think they’ve got the horses to compete for yet another District 1-5A Division II championship.

“I like that we’re all returning and most of our defense is juniors. We all know what we’re doing, so that’s what I like about our team,” said Locklin.

The Eagles open the 2023 season on the road at Pebble Hills on Thursday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m.

Next Friday is the first night of the Borderland’s most in-depth high school football wrap-up show, 9 Overtime. Tune in for the season premiere of 9OT at 10:15 p.m. on Aug. 25 with Colin Deaver, Sam Guzman, Ed Stansbury, Jason Flores and Andy Morgan.