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News and notes from North Fork sports

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Photo by Eric Goold Eagles head football coach Brent McRae directs the junior varsity in a recent practice at Paonia High School. In the three years under McRae's command, the Eagles have won two 1A state championships and were runnerup last year after fa

The 1A Western Slope Conference will have a new look this season.

All high school classifications were redone this year for football teams in Colorado.

Delta's Panthers made the move down to 2A and will compete with defending champion Bayfield in the Intermountain Conference.

Delta County's three other teams ­-- Cedaredge, Hotchkiss and Paonia -- will remain in the state's smallest classification, 1A, and will play as usual in the Western Slope Conference.

Lake County left the conference and will be replaced by the Olathe Pirates, who moved down from 2A.

The Pirates' veteran coach Ryan Corn led Olathe to two 2A state titles and brings a disciplined, powerful team into a traditionally strong conference.

"Cedaredge won a state championship, Paonia has gone to the state title game three years in a row and won two of them, and Meeker is always a dynamic team," new Hotchkiss head coach Curtis Hintz said. "Our conference has developed into a real strong conference. It adds another potential playoff team in our league."

The Pirates beat Hotchkiss last year after a goalline stand on the final play of the game and they've had some thrilling games against Cedaredge the past couple years. Olathe was 5-4 last season.

The push to make the playoffs will be tougher this year.

Strength of schedule will mean a lot as playoff seedings will be determined by RPI.

"With Olathe dropping down into our conference, we're all going to be fighting it out to make the playoffs," Hintz said. "Hopefully we'll get more than a couple of teams in there but RPI is going to throw a little bit different scenario into it."

Position battle

Paonia enters Friday's Homecoming game against Center with an offensive line that underwent a makeover during the off season.

Seniors Warren Minerich, Blake Benson and Trevor Smith (tight end) were locks to start up front for the Eagles, along with 6-foot, 225-pound junior Cyrus Malek-Madani.

Headed to last Friday's scrimmage at Coal Ridge, Paonia coach Brent McRae said the other two spots on the line were still up for grabs.

"Derek Holt, Levi Peterson, Clay Campbell and Luis Chavez are four kids fighting for two spots," McRae said. "We don't even know who will start out of those four. Two of them will rise up. They've been battling. It's been fun."

Tennis season nixed

Paonia Athletic Director Tim Esgar said that the Paonia tennis team will not play this fall.

The squad over the past few years was coached by Brian Benson and combined athletes from Hotchkiss and Paonia onto the team. The boys played in the fall and the girls played in the spring.

After Benson stepped down at the end of last season, no replacement coach was hired. Combined with low interest and a low turnout (only five boys wanted to compete this fall), there was no choice for officials other than cancelling the season.

Esgar said it's possible that a coach might be found in time for the girls season this spring.

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CHS, DHS, Football, HHS, PHS, Tennis
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