Blocked field goal spoils Paonia’s upset bid in A 11-man playoffs

LYONS — With a chance for the upset Saturday, Craig Cerise was confident his kicker, Lukas Wiggins, would come through with a game-winning field goal.

“I was confident he could make that field goal. I was 100 percent confident,” the Paonia head coach said. “The way he was kicking before the game, the first field goal he hit, we were confident.”

He had the offense position the ball in the middle of the field, and with 8.7 second left, sent out the special teams unit for a 40-yard try.

What he didn’t expect was the Lyons Lions to break through the line, but that’s what happened. Dexter Tomczak came up the middle and blocked Wiggins’ field goal to secure an 18-17 win for the Lions.

“I was thinking, ‘We’ve got to block that and move on to next week,’ ” Tomczak said. “We wanted to go another week. We didn’t want football to be done.”

Neither did the Eagles, but they made too many mistakes to pull off the upset. Paonia had 66 yards in penalties and a costly turnover deep in its own end that led to Lyons’ only touchdown of the first half.

Still, the Eagles (6-4) had a chance to erase those mistakes. Facing fourth-and-10 from the their own 45, Taylor Bradford hit Curtis Bushta with a 28-yard pass to put Paonia in field goal range with less than two minutes left.

Instead of taking a shot in the end zone, Cerise called for three safe running plays.

“Our kicker was more than capable of hitting that, so I was trying to keep it in the middle of the field,” Cerise said. “We had enough things happen in the game, we were fumbling snaps and fumbling handoffs, so I didn’t want us to mess it up. I
wanted to give us a chance.”

Wiggins, who said his longest field goal this year was from 45 yards, was confident.

“Somebody came through and got a hand on it,” he said.

The block wiped out a strong effort. The Eagles dominated the first and third quarters, running the ball effectively on the Lions. Jordan VanVleet had 103 yards and two rushing touchdowns, as the Eagles controlled the clock.

Their first drive of the game covered 69 yards in 18 plays and consumed 8:40, and in the third quarter they ran 15 plays to Lyons’ seven.

“We felt pretty good,” VanVleet said. “We had our running game, but it turned out they won in the fourth quarter.”

But the grind of the game took its toll on Paonia, and it showed in the fourth quarter. With 4:23 left, they led 17-10 and
Lyons had the ball at its own 20 when the Lions’ offense woke up. Quarterback Roland Valadez was 5 of 5 for 66 yards and ran for 14 more, including a 1-yard plunge with 2:09 left.

“We were just worn down,” Cerise said. “I don’t think it was a lack of effort. We weren’t getting enough pressure, we just ran out of gas.”

After the touchdown, the Lions (8-2) went for two and Mike Laurienti took it in to make it 18-17.

It turned a warm afternoon sour for the Eagles.

“It was very tough to swallow,” Wiggins said. “We were very confident coming in here. Maybe that’s what it was, we were too confident.”


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