The Paonia football team has its season opening kickoff on Friday night, and the quest for the coveted 3-peat will officially begin.
The two-time 1A state champions were at Paonia Town Park Saturday morning for a pre-season scrimmage against the Olathe Pirates.
Both teams ran series of four or five plays in live action that was refereed. On both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, new personnel for Paonia showed the trademark Eagles toughness that has won 23 straight games.
"On offense our line did some good things," Eagles coach Brent McRae said. "We've started to work on some stuff that we knew we needed to get better at."
Taylor Walters, looking noticeably bigger in his senior season and listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, barreled over Pirates on several big runs that he ripped off during the scrimmage.
Junior quarterback Dagan Rienks connected on a couple of short and long throws. Junior Trevor Smith continues to improve at tight end, making a couple of nice grabs against Olathe.
"I think we played hard and we got a pretty good corps of linemen that we can use," McRae said. "So I'm pretty happy with that overall."
Defensively for the Eagles, the scrimmage was a mixed bag.
"We've got a couple new kids in some spots that missed some assignments," McRae said. "Our tackling still needs some work. But our physicality and effort level was there."
Several young Eagles on a completely new defensive line are learning as they go.
"Our front four did very well for all four of them being new guys," McRae said. "I was pretty happy with the physicality up front."
Paonia hits the road Friday night for its season opener against No. 7 Monte Vista. McRae said there's one thing he wants to emphasize in practice until then.
"Discipline on defense," he said. "We gotta learn our assignments and do our roles. That's going to be the number one focus."