Getting to play in the Colorado High School Coaches Association’s All-State football game was the perfect ending of a long career for Tony Darling of Paonia. Darling, a four-year starter, had five sacks, 20 hurries and 69 total tackles his senior year. Last fall Paonia claimed its first state football title since 1959.
Darling was one of two Class 1A football players from the Western Slope to make the roster. “It was a dream come true, I guess you could say,” said Darling, who played for the south team.
Darling played defensive end and tackle and was in on kickoff and punt returns. Practice was relaxed, said Darling, “But at the same time you had to know what you were doing.”
The game was tied at 12-12 and went into double overtime, with the north team scoring in the final seconds to win 18-12.
Darling will study criminal justice at Colorado Mesa University. He was one of five Delta County student-athletes to compete in the annual games, held last week at Adams State University in Alamosa. Now in their 58th year, the games include boys’ and girls’ basketball and cross country competition, softball, spirit, volleyball and wrestling and are a showcase of senior talent from throughout the state.
The Paonia and Hotchkiss wrestling teams were also represented at the games. Garrett Toothaker of Hotchkiss wrestled at 106 pounds and lost to Diondre Garcia, a two-time state champion from Monte Vista.
Ty Coats, one of five 2014 state champions for Paonia, lost the 152-pound match by a 7-2 decision to Rashawn Benford, a state runner-up from Class 5A Fountain-Fort Carson.
Carson Pipher was one of three Western Slope players selected to compete in girls’ basketball. Pipher was an all-state player in both volleyball and basketball and was the starting point guard for the Lady Eagles. Last season Pipher averaged 11.8 points per game and shot 44 percent from the three-point line. She also had 67 steals, 48 assists and 98 total rebounds for the season. She will join the CMU Mavericks basketball team this fall.
Hotchkiss cross country coach Kelly Cowan was one of four selected to coach the cross country runners at the games. Natalie Anderson, a four-year state qualifier and top-five finisher who will run for Western State Colorado University, competed on June 11 in the cross country race. Teammate Jennifer Celis, who has signed to run for Oklahoma State University, was also invited to compete in the games, but was unable to attend.