For the first time in four years, the football team from Paonia High School will not win the 1A Western Slope Conference.
As happened every year since 2013, the conference title came down to the game between Paonia and Meeker. The Eagles and Cowboys have had a fierce rivalry since then.
In Meeker last Friday night, the Cowboys finally found a way to contain the Eagles and had just enough firepower to beat Paonia 12-7.
Both teams were undefeated entering the contest. Meeker improved to 8-0, 4-0 WSC and is in the driver's seat atop the conference standings and is at No. 1 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which will be used to determine the 16-team 1A state tournament field.
Paonia slipped to 7-1, 3-1 WSC. The loss to Meeker was the first conference defeat for the Eagles in four seasons and also marked the first conference loss handed to Paonia head coach Brent McRae, now in his fourth season on the Eagles' sideline.
As expected, last Friday's game was a defensive battle with both teams playing physical, hard-nosed football.
The only score in the first half came in the second quarter, when standout junior quarterback Logan Hughes found Hunter Garcia for a 27-yard Meeker touchdown.
The Eagles stopped Meeker's 2-point run attempt and trailed 6-0 at halftime.
Paonia took the lead back late in the fourth quarter when Anthony Felice collected a 16-yard touchdown pass from Dagan Rienks. Colby Simspon kicked the PAT and Paonia led 7-6.
Meeker put together a game-winning drive that ended with Hughes connecting with Casey Turner for a 7-yard score. The 2-point run failed and Meeker led 12-7.
The Eagles got the ball back and had time to score and win the game, but the Meeker defense was too stout and Paonia was turned away.
Hughes led the Cowboys with 216 passing yards, connecting on 13 of 16 throws with the two scores. Sheridan Harvey led the home team with four grabs and 109 receiving yards.
Meeker's ground game was stymied as the Eagles allowed only 39 rushing yards all game. Alex Sanchez led the Paonia defensive effort with 10 tackles.
Rienks finished with 100 passing yards for Paonia, completing eight of 14 tosses with the one touchdown and one interception.
Trevor Smith, Jaden Miller and Sackett Chesnik each had 10 rushes for Paonia in the contest and compiled 58, 37 and 53 rushing yards, respectively.
Paonia finishes the regular season at home on Friday night at 7 p.m. against Grand Valley.
Pirates sink Bulldogs
Going into last Friday night's game at Olathe, the football team from Hotchkiss High School was in the final playoff position at No. 16 in the RPI rankings.
That was likely to change after the Bulldogs fell to the scrappy Pirates, 28-21. It was the first conference win for Olathe (4-4,1-3 WSC), which dropped to 1A this season.
Hotchkiss fell to 3-5 overall and first-year head coach Curtis Hintz is still seeking his first conference win as the Bulldogs are 0-4 in WSC action.
The Bulldogs host rival Cedaredge Friday night at 7 p.m. Hotchkiss will have to beat the Bruins to have any chance of securing the No. 16 RPI position and making the playoffs.