Eagles take WSC lead
HOTCHKISS — Sophomore standout Taylor Walters rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns Friday night as Paonia beat Hotchkiss 21-0 in Class 1A Western Slope Conference football, moving the Eagles into first place in the conference.
Paonia (7-1) improved to 4-0 in conference play with the shutout win and handed the Bulldogs (6-2, 3-1 WSC) their first conference loss. The last time Paonia beat Hotchkiss, the eight members of this year’s senior class were in the sixth grade.
“This is crazy. This is awesome,” said Paonia senior quarterback Ty Coats. “I knew we could beat them this year. We finally did it.”
Paonia used a ball-control, power running game and kept the potent Hotchkiss offense off the field. The Bulldogs were limited to four possessions in the second half.
The first two ended with punts, the third ended on downs, and the final last-gasp effort ended in a lost fumble.
“We just didn’t get the ball enough,” Hotchkiss coach Zac Lemon said. “Even when we did move the ball we made mistakes and had turnovers. They beat us.”
Paonia executed its game plan from the opening drive. The Eagles took the ball 74 yards in 11 plays on their first possession, capped by Walters running 9 yards off right tackle and scoring four minutes into the first quarter. Colby Simpson kicked the extra point, and Paonia led for good at 7-0.
Hotchkiss had the ball only four times in the first half and punted on its first possession. Devan Rupe was intercepted by Walters on the second Hotchkiss possession, and River Panish fumbled the Bulldogs’ third possession away.
Their final possession before halftime ended with a punt.
“We worked on keeping it simple all week,” first-year Paonia coach Brent McRae said. “On defense we just told them to do their jobs and play with discipline.”
Walters scored his second touchdown on a 28-yard scamper that opened play in the fourth quarter. The score capped a 15-play, 88-yard drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock.
Gunnar Chesnik rumbled for a 19-yard touchdown run with 1:20 left in the game to seal Paonia’s victory. Chesnik had 78 tough rushing yards in the game, and senior Will Austin had 11 carries for 87 yards before sitting out the second half with a hand injury.
Rifle 50, Steamboat Springs 10: The Bears (6-2, 3-1 3A WSC) didn’t throw a pass all game, instead rushing 30 times for 465 yards.
Bailey Hoffmeister scored three times for Rifle, rushing twice for touchdowns and scoring on a fumble recovery in the end zone.
Kellin Leigh and Javier Nunez each added two TD runs for the Bears, who broke the game open with 21 points in the second quarter and 15 in the third.
Olathe 21, Bayfield 20: Mitchell Carlson scored on a 20-yard run with 1:15 left in the game for the winning score as the Pirates rallied to remain unbeaten in Class 2A WSC play. Trenton Jole carried 27 times for 237 yards for Olathe (6-2, 6-0 WSC).
Bayfield dropped to 4-4, 3-3.