Paonia’s Taylor Walters runs for a 72-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff against the Roaring Fork Rams last Friday night.
Paonia opened 1A Western Slope League competition last Friday with a 42-9 win over Roaring Fork. For the Eagles, who were also enjoying the annual homecoming celebration, it seemed that little could go wrong.
"We had a few turnovers and penalties," said head coach Scott Rienks after the game. "But, hey! Other than that..."
Taylor Walters was up front to block on the opening kickoff and wasn't expecting the ball, which went short and wide to the right, to come his way. The ball bounced inside the 30 and he could hear coaches yelling from the sideline to let it go out of bounds, said Walters. He looked up to see teammate Logan Schopp block a Rams player, giving him a clear view of the goal line more than 70 yard away. He grabbed the ball, "And I just kept running as hard as I could," said the freshman. "Oh man, that was exciting."
Place kicker Jorge Quinonez put the ball through the uprights to give Paonia a 7-0 lead with just under 12 minutes remaining on the clock.
Paonia held the Rams to a three-and-out on their opening possession, then executed a 74-yard, 13-play drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown run by Will Austin. Quinonez' PAT gave Paonia a 14-0 lead.
The Rams got to work, running the ball deep into Paonia territory, but were held to a 27-yard field goal with just four seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Paonia turned the ball over on downs at midfield to start the second quarter. The Rams and Eagles exchanged possessions on fumbles. A second fumble by Roaring Fork was recovered by Gunnar Chesnik at midfield. That set up a 14-yard touchdown run by Jesse Reed and a two-point conversion pass from Ty Coats to Austin to give the Eagles a 22-3 lead.
On the next Rams possession, Jared Byrge recovered a fumble at mid-field. On first down, Taylor Katzer carried the ball to the Rams' 29. Austin had two carries to put the ball inside the Rams' 10 and set up a nine-yard scoring run by Walters; Quinonez kicked the PAT to give the Eagles a 29-3 halftime lead.
The Rams threatened to score early in the second half following a 14-play drive that took them deep into Paonia territory. But the Eagles' defense made a goal line stand, taking over on downs following an incomplete pass in the end zone.
Paonia took advantage of a penalty against Roaring Fork, which put the ball inside the Rams' 40. The Eagles were forced to punt, but another Rams penalty gave the Eagles a first down and set up a 10-yard touchdown run by Morgan Rieder. A Quinonez PAT gave the Eagles a 36-3 lead at the end of the third.
The Rams scored their only touchdown of the night early in the fourth.
This was the first time in recent years the two teams met on the field, but with Roaring Fork dropping to Class 1A this season, they will meet again.
Austin had 21 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Reed was seven for 39 and a 14-yard touchdown run, and Rieder had eight carries for 33 yards and one touchdown.
On defense, TK Kendall led the Eagles in tackles with 10, and Walters and Joel Simianer each had nine. Josh Altman, Rieder and Keaton Kropp also had key plays to help shut down the Rams offense.
This was the first varsity game for Quinonez, a three-year soccer player for Hotchkiss and lead scorer for the Delta Panthers' soccer team. He hasn't played in a football game since eighth grade. Quinonez would have kicked in the Eagles' win against Dolores a week earlier, but the game was moved from Friday night to Saturday, which conflicted with his soccer schedule.
Quinonez said after Friday's win that he was encouraged by football coaches and players to come out for the team and began practicing just over three weeks ago.
"It just comes natural to me," said Quinonez, who was three for four and kicked a fourth PAT in the second quarter, but the play was called dead before the snap on a Roaring Fork penalty.
Quinonez said he was only in the game "for a couple of plays, but oh man! The adrenaline really kept me pumped."
The Eagles travel this Friday to Meeker. The Cowboys are 1-3 overall following a 21-6 conference win over Lake County (0-5, 0-1).