Dads, sons celebrate Paoina win
PAONIA — Fathers, sons and football go together like rifles and ammunition.
Fathers hugged their sons as they both celebrated Paonia High School’s victory in the Class 1A state championship football game on Saturday.
Fathers looked on, proudly, possibly remembering their playing days many years before.
Proud fathers, excited sons. Football is the ultimate bonding sport.
As the Paonia Eagles celebrated, Brent McRae hugged his father, Eric McRae.
Father-son football coaches for the Eagles.
“It’s been great this season, coaching with him,” Eric McRae said.
As a first-year head coach, Brent McRae is living the dream, a Class 1A state title in his first try. Dad laughs, saying it’s not that easy.
“You never know when you’re going to get another one,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of young kids on this team but you never know when you can get another one.”
He should know.
The veteran coach, who has been roaming sidelines for more than 40 years, won one state title as a coach and another as a player.
When Brent took over as the Eagles’ head coach this season, it was only natural that he wanted to tap all the knowledge that his dad packed away over the years.
But he wanted and needed more than advice. That’s why he gave Dad a job as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator. Through the season, Eric would make the 299-mile drive from Rocky Ford to Paonia and stay with his son for most of the week.
Of course, there was one thing they talked about.
“We talked a lot of football,” Eric said with a laugh.
“Sunday was football day at the house,” Brent said. “We would have three or four dry-erase chalkboards all over the house and we would talk football. I take care of the offense and he takes care of the defense. I had to outscore him today.”
In the Eagles’ 32-24 win over Centauri, both coaches did a heck of a job.
This isn’t the first time they’ve coached together.
“I got lucky my last year at Rocky (Ford) and he came down and coached with me as an assistant,” Eric said.
Now the roles have changed.
Eric just laughs when asked to give his son a grade in his first year as a head coach.
Then he lets out a bigger laugh.
“I told him he’s just damn lucky he has such a great defensive coordinator,” he said.
Watching them on the sidelines, they are both emotional and excitable. Brent pumping his fist enthusiastically after big plays, and Eric screaming at his defensive players.
As a veteran coach, Eric said he saw something special happening with the Eagles about midway through the season.
“We played well as a team and we picked each other up,” he said about Saturday’s win. “You have to have that and it took us awhile to learn it. Once we learned that’s the way we have to play as a team and everybody has to do their job, we got better.”