The Paonia Eagles dominated both sides of the football Friday night to defeat the visiting Hotchkiss Bulldogs, 41-0.
Senior Jesse Burns rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns in 11 carries in the conference win. "It's the best feeling ever," said Burns of the rivalry win.
The team knew going in that they needed to step up their game against their biggest rival, said Burns. "Every year, it's always been a tough game."
Bulldog running back Jace Peebles was the main concern heading into the game, said head coach Blaine Escher. "He's a good athlete and an outstanding back," said Escher. "He was the nucleus of their offense and we thought all the attention should go that way."
The nucleus of the Paonia offense runs through quarterback Grey Neal, said Escher. "He's becoming an outstanding leader on this team... He's everything you want in a quarterback."
Quarterback Grey Neal rushed for 39 yards and one touchdown in nine carries and completed two of five passes with one interception into the hands of Bulldog Will Scarlett.
Sackett Chesnik had 57 yards and one touchdown in 11 carries, and Anthony Felice ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns in 12 carries, putting Paonia on the score board on a 25-yard run with 1:38 remaining in the first quarter. David Lozano kicked his first of six PAT's for the game for a 7-0 lead.
Paonia took a 14-0 lead on a 26-yard TD run by Burns with 4:31 remaining in the half.
Soul Connolly had one interception and ran the ball back for a touchdown late in the half, but the play was called back and Paonia took possession on the Bulldog 24-yard line.
Seven minutes into the second half Burns walked across the goal line untouched for a two-yard TD and Lozano's PAT put Paonia up by 21.
Chesnik scored a six-yard touchdown with 6:35 remaining in the game to start the running clock with 41 points.
The defense also had an outstanding game, said Escher. In his first varsity game of the season, sophomore Anthony Miller had three tackles at defensive end. Miller also took the center position for the first time. "He had some huge plays for us on the side," said Escher.
For his efforts both in the game and on the practice field, Burns was named #Player of the Game. "He had an outstanding game," said Escher. "He's so tough, he's so strong... He's your typical north-and-south 'I'm gonna run you over' player."