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Eagles win 25th behind Walters, stingy defense

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Photo by Eric Goold Paonia quarterback Taylor Walters calls an audible during the first quarter of the Eagles' game against Ignacio. Paonia had little trouble with the Bobcats as it rolled to a 49-0 win.

Make it 25 in a row for the Eagles.

Paonia's high school football team played in front of its home fans for the first time this year last Friday night and the Eagles showed that the present and the future are looking good.

Player of the Year Taylor Walters ran for three touchdowns and passed for two more while the Eagles' young defense put a touchdown on the board and Paonia rolled to a 49-0 win over visiting Ignacio at Paonia Town Park.

"I liked how we worked as a team," Walters said. "Our blockers are doing really good and using all the technique we taught them. We got better this week and just let it go during the game."

Walters set the tone on Paonia's first offensive possession, taking a quarterback keeper around the Ignacio defense for a 19-yard touchdown run and a quick 7-0 lead.

Ignacio was shorthanded, fielding 17 players for the contest. That dwindled to 15 by the end of the game and reports on the Bobcats' sideline indicated that only one of those players was a true lineman.

The visitors responded by playing an unorthodox hurry-up offense that employed a swinging gate formation, where the center was flanked by two receivers and quarterback Zach Weinreich lined up in the shotgun.

The rest of the Bobcats were way on the other side of the line of scrimmage in a big bundle of receivers and blockers.

"That was brand new to us. That was crazy," Paonia sophomore defensive end Jaden Miller said about the unusual offense. "We had no clue they were gonna do that."

It didn't take the Eagles long to adjust and get the offense back on the field. Five plays later Walters burned down the sideline for a 44-yard score and Paonia led 14-0.

Ignacio's next drive ended in a turnover on downs after Miller's big sack of Weinreich. A lot of new faces are getting used to playing Paonia's trademark tough defense.

"We've been practicing good, and we've been picking it up," Miller said. "A lot of us are brand new so we've been learning a lot. It's been an experience, that's for sure. We're getting there."

The Eagles needed eight plays to find the end zone on their next drive. Walters connected with junior Trevor Smith on a 1-yard scoring strike and Paonia led 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.

After sophomore Cyrus Malek-Madani intercepted Weinreich on the Bobcats next possession, Paonia upped the lead to 28-0 after Miller's 1-yard touchdown run on a handoff from Walters.

"It's amazing," Miller said. "I remember watching him (Walters) in eighth grade and I was like, yeah, I want to be there someday. So it's really cool to be here now."

Trevor Plymale was next to step up for the Paonia defense, intercepting Weinreich and taking the return back for an 18-yard touchdown and a 35-0 advantage.

Walters took care of the rest, running for a 62-yard score and finding Miller on a touchdown hookup, this one a pass of 12 yards, and Paonia finished the scoring in the contest with over a minute remaining in the first half.

After posting two huge seasons as an underclassman, Walters is poised to have one of the statistically best careers ever for a Colorado high school football player. But he doesn't think about that.

"I just go into the game and it's the game," Walters said. "I want to win game by game and not think about anything else. It's for the team."

Senior Colby Simpson was a perfect 7-for-7 on extra point tries and has yet to miss a PAT this season.

With the first team sitting out the second half, Paonia fans watched as Caden Meilner, Sackett Chesnik, Jesse Burns and Riley Simianer all got their first work playing varsity football for the Eagles and showed that the future is in good hands.

Coming up next on the schedule for the Eagles (2-0) is Friday night's homecoming contest against Centauri, slated for 7 p.m. at Paonia Town Park.

Centauri's Falcons were the last team to beat the Eagles over two years ago.

"Centauri is kind of a rival now because they beat us and then we beat them to win the first state championship game," Walters said. "We're gonna come out and work hard and try to win that game."

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