First-year head coach Brent McRae said he wasn't surprised. "I was pretty confident the boys could perform at that level," said McRae.
That level: 18 first downs, 185 yards rushing, 121 yards passing, three TD passes and two scoring runs. The defense held Basalt to 52 yards on 33 carries, and 154 total yards and that final score, 30-8, despite 4:13 remaining on the clock when officials called the game on account of lightning.
Considering they had just two weeks to prepare, "We executed very well, especially early on," said McRae.
While they lost eight seniors to graduation, the Eagles have six returning starters on both sides of the ball, said McRae. Three returning starters, senior Tony Darling, junior Joel Simianer and sophomore Taylor Walters, were named all-conference in 2012.
Simianer, a junior tight end and middle linebacker, has the right combo of speed, size and dedication. His job description is expanding this season to take advantage of those attributes, said McRae. On Friday, Simianer caught four passes for 121 yards, including three TD passes; on defense he had three solo tackles.
This season Paonia has the luxury of two QBs with varsity experience, and one incoming freshman who could step in if called on, said McRae. Two of Fridays' TD passes were delivered by senior QB, Ty Coats, who was 3-for-4 for 82 yards. Walters completed one pass, a 39-yard TD to Simianer on the Eagles' opening drive. Walters also led the rushing game with 102 yards in 18 carries.
Gunnar Chesnik had two carries for 9 yards and one touchdown, the first of his varsity career, and senior William Austin had eight carries for 69 yards and one TD.
And, oh the defense. "We are very deep on the D-line," said McRae, who has "six or seven players" vying for starting positions. They include juniors Josh Kimball, Logan Schopp and Dylan Geisler, and senior Tristan Littlejohn.
Darling, a leaner, quicker player after cutting more than 75 pounds in the last year, is more versatile and valuable this year. After starting last year at nose tackle, Darling moved to middle linebacker this fall, and had four solo tackles against Basalt.
If there was a downside to the game, it's that Paonia failed all five of its conversion attempts, and nine penalties cost them 80 yards. That's to be expected this early in the season, said McRae. On the plus side, there were no personal fouls, despite some tense moments on the field that cost Basalt critical yardage.
Paonia has a week off before facing Grand Valley in a non-conference game at home.
The week of Sept. 3-6 is also homecoming week for the Eagles. A lot can change with the lineups before then, and throughout the season, said McRae. "Our philosophy is to put the best 11 players out there. We are still deciding where best to put everyone so they can be successful."
The win is a good start, said McRae. "The good news is we have a lot of things to improve on."blog comments powered by Disqus