The Paonia Eagles threw a wrench into Meeker's game, overcoming a one-point deficit with a last-minute touchdown/PAT combo to defeat the previously undefeated Cowboys in a 28-22 home win.
"We knew they were going to be a battle," said first-year head coach Brent McRae, who was just soaking it all in while reminding his players to enjoy the moment.
"They were a lot tougher than we thought," said Taylor Walters, who had 36 carries for 262 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. "They were 5-0 and that shows something. We were surprised a little bit."
The Cowboys had an impressive start. Quarterback Jake Phelan connected on two long touchdown pass plays in the first half, including a 93-yard pass to T.J. Shelton on the Cowboys' opening play of the game and a 96-yard pass play to Raul Lopez.
But Paonia had an answer to each of their scores. On their first possession, Walters connected with Josh Altman on a 70-yard pass play, and ran for a 1-yard TD late in the first period. Freshman placekicker Colby Simpson completed both scoring drives with a PAT to end the first quarter at 14-14.
Paonia led, 21-14, at the half after a second scoring run by Walters, but was scoreless in the third period after two long drives ended in lost fumbles.
Meeker took a one-point lead when Phelan connected with Lopez just inside the end zone with 2:11 remaining in the third period. Phelan carried the ball for the two-point conversion to put Meeker ahead, 22-21.
Paonia turned the ball over for the fourth and final time, giving Meeker the ball on its own 34 with 9:48 remaining in the game.
Meeker was threatening to score when defensive lineman Tony Darling rushed Phelan, knocking down his pass and forcing a fourth down. Phelan's fourth-down pass was incomplete, giving Paonia possession deep in its own territory with just over three minutes to go.
Paonia inched its way up the field, and caught the Cowboys off guard on fourth-and-four when Will Austin caught a pass at the Meeker 36-yard line. Paonia ate up two more downs, and on third and 14, Walters scrambled for 13 yards. On fourth-and-one, and with less than a minute remaining, Logan Schopp caught a 16-yard Walters pass at the Cowboy 20. Walters carried the ball out of bounds at the 10-yard line to stop the clock at 40 seconds.
With 28 seconds remaining in the game, Ty Coats stepped in at quarterback and handed off to Walters for a 1-yard touchdown — a play they hadn't yet tried.
"The Maryland I just wasn't working," said Walters. "We just threw in some offense they hadn't seen at the end of the game. just something different."
Simpson completed his fourth of four PAT for the evening. Paonia proceeded to hold Meeker for the next 24 seconds, including one untimed down from a Paonia penalty.
McRae called the win a true team effort. "Our kids are like family," said McRae. "They believe in each other. Our whole line played phenomenally." McRae referred to Cowboys Phelan and Shelton, who each passed the 500-yard marks in rushing ahead of Friday's game and rushed for 74 and 159 yards respectively on Friday, as some of the best running backs in the league.
Paonia rushed for 409 yards in 58 carries. Will Austin had 120 yards in 14 carries. Gunnar Chesnik had five carries for 31 yards, including a key, 27-yard catch in the final period.
The defense compiled 62 tackles, with Chesnik, Josh Kimball, Schopp and Darling each adding eight.
The win tightens the race for first place in the WSL. At 5-1, 2-0, Paonia and Hotchkiss are now in a two-way tie for first place. Meeker drops to third at 5-1, 1-1, with Cedaredge in fourth place and Roaring Fork (2-4, 0-2) is in fifth. Lake County (0-6, 0-2) who is sixth, will host the Eagles this Friday night.blog comments powered by Disqus