First-year Paonia head coach Brent McRae knew that after six years of big losses to rival Hotchkiss, this year's team had a chance.
But did he and his coaching staff foresee a shutout?
"We just wanted to win by a point," said McRae after his team sealed a 21-0 win at Hotchkiss Friday and jumped to first place in the 1A Western Slope Conference. "You don't shut out Hotchkiss. Coach (Zac) Lemon knows what he's doing. He knows how to coach the game of football. We did not expect that. We thought we had a pretty good shot. We thought we had a pretty good plan."
Paonia controlled the clock and the ball from the start, opening with a 75-yard, 10-play drive capped by a 15-yard touchdown run by Taylor Walters. Freshman kicker Colby Simpson's PAT gave Paonia a 7-0 lead with 7:50 remaining in the first quarter.
Unable to sustain drives the remainder of the first half, Hotchkiss then failed to capitalize on its opening possession of the second half, and Paonia took possession with about 8 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Paonia wrapped up an 87-yard, 18 play drive on the first play of the fourth quarter, with Ty Coats connecting with Walters for a 22-yard touchdown play. Simpson's PAT gave Paonia a 14-point lead with 11:48 remaining in the game.
Hotchkiss recovered a Paonia fumble at the Eagles' 48-yard line with 4:25 remaining in the game, but made little gain before giving up the ball on downs with 2:53 remaining. Paonia used the clock in its favor, and a 19-yard touchdown by Gunnar Chesnik and Simpson's PAT with 1:20 remaining sealed the win for the Eagles.
"They made some good adjustments (against the running game)," said McRae. "Coach Lemon and his staff did a great job and they made us adjust."
Running back Will Austin was sidelined in the first half with an injury after running the ball 89 yards in 11 carries and catching a 7-yard pass. Walters stepped up to end the game with 27 carries for 176 of Paonia's 378 yards. Chesnik had 12 carries for 73 yards.
"I got a good team behind me," said Walters. "We've got a good line."
The last time Hotchkiss was shut out was in 2004. Bulldogs head coach Zac Lemon didn't make any excuses. "They won the time of possession huge. They won the physical battle and they won the turnover battle," said Lemon, "and those are three things you can't recover from."
Hotchkiss had three second-half possessions. Quarterback Devan Rupe completed 5 of 13 passes for 45 yards and threw one interception. The Bulldogs rushed for 121 yards in 25 carries.
"We just didn't have the ball enough," said Lemon. "When we were able to move the ball, we'd make a mistake and wouldn't be able to recover from it. They beat us, plain and simple."
"It feels phenomenal. I don't know what else to say," said junior tight end Logan Schopp, who transferred from Hotchkiss to Paonia his freshman year. "I hope this proves that Paonia is up there. We are a force to be reckoned with."
With one game remaining in the season before league playoffs, Paonia, Hotchkiss and Cedaredge are all ranked in the top five in the state in Colorado Preps rankings. Paonia (No. 3) hosts Cedaredge (No. 5) this Friday at 7 p.m. The Bruins (6-2, 3-1) are coming off of a 52-0 win over Lake County.
The Bulldogs (No. 4) travel to Meeker Friday. The Cowboys (5-3, 1-3) will be hungry for a win after dropping to fifth place in the conference following Friday's 28-0 upset loss to Roaring Fork (3-5, 1-3). More bad news for the Cowboys is a note that starting quarterback Jake Phelan suffered a broken leg in the loss and is out for the remainder of the season.
"We're going to be resilient, we're going to be proud and we're going to work our tail off because Meeker is not going to be an easy test next week," said Lemon. "We've definitely got to play our best."blog comments powered by Disqus