EP Bel Air Names Lopez As Coach

Across the border in New Mexico, Phil Lopez was doing great things in coaching the Rio Rancho High School football team. El Paso Bel Air took notice on Lopez's success and made the move to make him the sixth coach in the Highlanders' history. Now Bel Air hopes that Lopez will repeat the success he had at Rio Rancho when he led them to an undefeated district record the past three seasons.

Lopez, 45, is a native of Clovis, New Mexico and spent the past four seasons as head football coach and assistant athletic director at Rio Rancho, a school outside of Albuquerque.

But he does have Texas high school coaching experience. Prior to Rio Rancho, Lopez spent three seasons as head football coach at McAllen Memorial and had a five-year stint at Fort Stockton.

Lopez is an advocate of not only team unity, but that of one team supporting another team at the school. One of his first charges to his new team was to demand that they appear at Bel Air's regional quarterfinal soccer game against El Paso Americas.

Ysleta Independent School District Athletic Director Pat O'Neill said that more than 20 applicants interviewed for the job and that 13 were interviewed. O'Neill called it "the strongest field of applicants that I've seen for a head coaching position."

But when it came down to it, the energy, enthusiasm and track record of Lopez won out. Now the coach hopes to win out with his new team, just as he has done in New Mexico.

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