By Wayne Crick
COVID-19 put its stamp on everything in 2020 and the Paonia High School football team felt every bump along the way as it played through a season where there were no wins in a six-game schedule. The Eagles’ first game of the season was against Rye with the Thunderbolts eeking out a 13-0 win in a defensive, and error-filled game for both teams. Head coach Eric Neal was optimistic from the start knowing his team was young and inexperienced with many lessons to learn as the year progressed. And learn it did!
With just four seniors and three juniors on this year’s team, the Eagles were likely one of the youngest teams anywhere. That left the remainder of the roster with 11 sophomores and 10 freshmen. Most all the teams Paonia played had five or more seniors on their rosters with two top 10 teams from Class 1A playing in their league. Hotchkiss enters this week’s state tournament as the 5th seed while Meeker is seeded 7th. Only the top eight teams made the playoffs.
Paonia’s final game of 2020 was with Meeker, which has plenty of experience and ability to play with aggressiveness. The Eagles were outmanned in the game with the Cowboys rolling to a 47-0 1A WSL win.
Meeker put together an offensive game which had 33 yards of passing and 310 yards of rushing in the win. Senior running back Jeremy Woodward bulled his way for 108 yards on just four carries and scored three touchdowns in the game for the Cowboys, which finished their regular season with a 5-1 record.
Paonia Athletic Director, Amy Miller, was asked if the Eagles were going to play an extra game in 2020, as all teams which didn’t make the playoffs had options to do. “No game this week (Nov. 20). The Eagles are hanging up their cleats for the 2020 season. They’re ready for the 2021 season when they’ll be one year older, one year more experienced and one year stronger,” quoted Miller.