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Eagles soar and score for 48-6 Homecoming win

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Photo by Eric Goold Sophomore Jaden Miller runs the ball for Paonia in the first quarter and drags a host of Falcons with him as Centauri's Hayden Huffaker, 11, moves in to help finish tackling Miller. Paonia won its Homecoming game, 48-6. The Eagles shar

Paonia had all the motivation it needed going into last Friday night's football game against visiting Centauri.

It was the Falcons who last beat Paonia, a little over two years ago, handing head coach Brent McRae and star quarterback Taylor Walters their only high school defeat.

And it was Homecoming.

The Eagles responded for the second week in a row with an explosive offense and a dominant defense in a 48-6 rout of the Falcons.

Senior Jeramiah Hillman may have understated the situation after running for two touchdowns and snagging an interception in the victory.

"Tonight was a solid win," Hillman said. "We played very well tonight."

Paonia took the opening kickoff and drove 71 yards in less than three minutes. Walters scampered 38 yards for a touchdown and the Eagles led 7-0.

Centauri ran three plays and punted, then Walters ended Paonia's next drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Dagan Rienks. Paonia led 14-0 after its first two possessions.

Eagles junior Colby Simpson intercepted Centauri quarterback Nate Anderson and set up the offense after a long return.

"We stopped the run well, that was good," Simpson said. "We had some miscues on pass defense, but we got them fixed. We just made adjustments. That's one of the big parts of our game, making adjustments."

Rienks ran in from 1 yard out for his second score, and Paonia was in command at 21-0. The defense stopped Centauri on downs and gave the Eagles the ball right back for a nine-play scoring drive.

The key play was a 19-yard option run that saw Walters pitch to Hillman right before he was tackled. Hillman finished the drive with a 1-yard score to make it 28-0.

The Eagles exploited the Falcons' defense with the option pitch several more times in the game.

"We've done that play since the fifth grade," Hillman said. "We have that connection. When he (Walters) knows he's not getting any more yards, he just sends it off to me and lets me pick up a few more."

Walters wasn't done yet, busting off a 30-yard touchdown run, and the Eagles were up 35-0.

Then Hillman's pick set up the Eagles' offense. They needed only one play to score this time as Hillman collected a pitch from Walters and blazed into the house for a 42-0 lead and a running clock before halftime.

Simpson made all six of his first half extra points, but after senior Trevor Plymale scored on a 16-yard touchdown run midway through the third, the Eagles kicker missed his first extra point of the season and Paonia led 48-0.

Sophomore Derek Holt is the long snapper and Rienks is the holder in Paonia's kicking formation. Simpson never kicked before his freshman year and just thought he might try it out.

"We practice it once or twice a week," Simpson said. "We got pretty good chemistry. Derek does a great job snapping and Dagan gets it down well, so it's a good job."

After spending two seasons exclusively as a kicker, Simpson is making his presence felt in all three phases of the game.

"I'm on the field a lot, so I don't get a lot of breaks," Simpson said. "But it's fun. Like McRae says, it's all about making memories, so the more you're out there, the better."

Centauri got on the board on its last play of the game, a 30-yard touchdown pass from Anderson to Brandon Buhr, and completed the scoring in the contest.

Up next for Paonia is a long road trip to face the No. 4 team in 2A, Bayfield, on Friday night.

"It will be tough," McRae said. "They returned a lot of players from last year, they're coached well, they're big and fast. It's going to be an awesome test to see where we are."

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