Paonia football in the semifinals, again

Because the opponent of the Paonia High School football team faced 1A Western Slope Conference foes in the first two rounds of the playoffs, there’s a decent amount that Eagles coach Brent McRae has gleaned from the game film.

The No. 2 Strasburg Indians (11-0) thumped Grand Valley 54-0 in the first round and got by Cedaredge in a 29-11 second-round win, setting up the semifinal matchup with No. 3 Paonia (10-1) at 1 p.m. today just east of Aurora.

“You can see a lot in terms of comparing athleticism and speed,” McRae said. “We know what Cedaredge has and we know what Grand Valley has, so it’s nice to watch them play and see their guys comparatively, in terms of speed and size and things like that. It’s helpful in that sense.”

What Strasburg has is three runners with 11 touchdowns each — two wingbacks and a running back — plus an athletic quarterback with nine rushing touchdowns. McRae said lateral speed is important against the Indians, as is the second and third levels of the defense keying on the run. But watching the pass is just as important, if not more so.

Last week, Strasburg quarterback Conner Martin completed 7 of 11 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns. The Indians chipped away on the ground against the Bruins’ stout defense, carrying the ball 25 times for 103 yards, but won the game in the air.

“The numbers will tell you that he’s a solid, solid quarterback and that he’s throwing to a lot of the same guys who are running it,” McRae said. “They’re a lot like us in that regard, trying to get their athletes in places to make plays. It’s asset management. We have to know where those guys are and make sure we’re paying attention. If you stack the box on them, they’re going to start throwing it.”

The Eagles are familiar with late-round playoff games, having played in each of the past three Class 1A championships.

“All these guys know is making the state championship game,” McRae said. “We’re no stranger to long road trips, either. So they’re prepared.”

Paonia beat Buena Vista 51-6 in the first round, then held on to beat No. 6 Burlington 22-20 last week.


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