The Paonia Eagles are now 1-1 after a non-conference routing of Rye Friday night at Salida. The 44-3 win is the first for the Eagles under new head coach Blaine Escher.
Junior Jaden Miller led the Eagles in rushing with 168 yards and three touchdowns in 19 carries. Gunnar Chesnik had two carries for 30 yards, including a 22-yard run.
Quarterback Caden Meilner was three-for-nine with one touchdown pass to Anthony Felice.
They've come a long way since the loss at Centauri, a game in which Escher said both sides were sloppy. After a bye last Friday, they had "a solid week of practice," said Escher. Not apparent in the final score are a few errors, said Escher, but those can be fixed.
In its opening drive, Paonia was three-and-out. On the ensuing possession the Thunderbolts marched the ball up the field, converting on four third-down situations before kicking a field goal.
Once the defense stepped up, the game belonged to Paonia, said Escher. Rye would likely have had a better night, but was forced to make a big adjustment early in the second quarter after losing senior starting quarterback Peyton Baker to an injury. This early in the season that's not an easy thing to do, said Escher.
Cyrus Malek-Madani led the Eagles' defense with four solo and four assisted tackles and three hurries. Derek Holt had six assisted tackles and one solo tackle, a hurry and one sack.
The win was welcome after Paonia's zero-week, 20-13 non-conference loss at Centauri. A week later, Rye (0-2, 1A Tri Peaks League) lost a week-one game to Centauri by 40 points. Escher said the team met a goal for the night, holding Rye's offense to less than 100 total yards.
Paonia hosts its home opener this Friday, welcoming the Rams from Ridge View Academy in Watkins (0-2, 2A Colorado League). Paonia defeated Ridge View, 38-0, last season, but Escher said they are not overlooking this team.
The game is played at Dan Lawrence Field at Paonia Town Park and has a unique kick-off time of 4 p.m.