If there was any question whether Paonia could adjust to a new coaching staff and play as one unit, the answer may be found in its 42-7 routing of Olathe.
For the Pirates, who were coming off of a seven-point win over Cedaredge, it marked their first conference loss of the season.
Jaden Miller rushed for 184 yards and two TDs in 24 carries in the win. Quarterback Caden Meilner ran for three touchdowns and threw for a fourth. Paonia scored early and often. On the second play of the game the Eagles recovered an Olathe fumble at the Pirates 10 and capped a 90-yard drive with a two-yard TD run by Meilner.
Pirates running back Elias Ramirez made some long runs early in the game and was going to be tough to handle. "He had some wheels," said Meilner. "He can run." After the first score, said Meilner, it looked like it was going to be a tough night.
On Olathe's second possession, the Pirates took advantage of an Eagles face mask call, setting up a TD pass from Dillon Nelson to EJ Ruiz. The PAT by Tony Garcia tied the game with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Head coach Blaine Escher said Paonia made a few defensive adjustments, slowing the Pirates running game. The double wing offense they use is "a real tricky offense and something that we don't see a whole lot in 1A," said Escher. "It's kind of hard to prepare for that kind of offense. ... It was almost like shaking the cobwebs off and getting used to it."
Once those adjustments were made everyone settled in and the team was able to focus on offense.
In the second quarter Paonia capped an 81-yard drive with a five-yard TD run by Miller with less than a minute remaining in the half.
The team came out a little slow in the first quarter, said Escher. That second-quarter drive "is where I would have liked the game to start."
For Paonia, the momentum carried through to the second half. After deferring on the opening kickoff, Paonia opened the half on a four-yard TD run by Miller.
On Olathe's ensuing possession, Eagles sophomore Grey Neal intercepted a long pass intended for Ruiz at the Paonia 45. On first down Miller rushed for nine yards, and on second down Meilner connected on a 47-yard touchdown pass to Neal. Meilner's PAT gave Paonia a 28-7 lead with 7:12 remaining in the third.
If there was any wind left in the Pirates' sailing ship, it sank when Anthony Felice intercepted an Olathe pass and ran 21 yards to the Pirate 25 before being driven out of bounds. Paonia converted a third-and-12 on a 20-yard carry by Miller, setting up a TD run by Meilner and a 35-7 lead. On the opening play of the fourth quarter Meilner went untouched for 19 yards for the final touchdown of the game.
Despite a couple of bad practices leading up to the game, the big win wasn't a surprise, said Miller. Now they can focus on this Friday's game against Meeker. At 7-0, Meeker is ranked first in the 1A WSL and is one game ahead of Paonia.
"That's going to be a good game," said Miller. "I think we have a good chance against them."