Paonia ready for Round 2

Hard-charging Monte Vista on tap for Paonia

Paonia sophomore Taylor Walters, 18, dominated the Class 1A Western Slope Conference this fall. When he doesn’t line up at quarterback, he plays running back for the Eagles, who face Monte Vista on Saturday.



QUICKREAD

Class 1A Playoffs

No. 5 Monte Vista (8-2)
vs. No. 4 Paonia (8-1)

Second round, 1 p.m. Saturday,
Paonia High School

Coaches

Monte Vista — Manny Wassinger, first season, 8-2.

Paonia — Brent McRae, first season, 9-1.

About Monte Vista

■ The Pirates defeated Cedaredge 20-7 in the first round of the playoffs with Jacob Vance running 16 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Michael Sanchez completed 10 of 20 passes for 191 yards and a TD.

■ The Pirates have six common opponents with Paonia. Paonia went 5-1 in those games, and Monte Vista was 4-2. Both squads lost to No. 3 Centauri, and the Pirates fell to fell to Hotchkiss 34-33. Paonia topped Hotchkiss 21-0 on Oct. 18.

■ Monte Vista finished second in the 1A Southern Peaks Conference behind champion Centauri (5-0), which beat the Pirates 14-0 in the regular-season finale.

■ The Pirates get it done with defense, limiting opponents to eight or fewer points seven times, including three shutouts.

■ The offense is balanced with 334 rushes for 1,671 yards and 25 touchdowns and 159 pass attempts for 1,315 yards and 23 touchdowns.

■ The running game also strikes a balance with junior running back Vance leading the way with team highs of 103 carries, 592 yards and 10 TDs. Senior running back Brenen Ramirez is next with 396 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, and five TDs.

■ Senior quarterback Michael Sanchez has completed 81 of 149 passes for 1,241 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also can run, carrying 87 times for 317 yards and three scores.

■ Senior Mitch Vanderpool and junior Daniel Borunda lead the receivers with 394 and 381 yards, respectively. Vanderpool has eight TD passes among his 18 receptions, and Borunda has six TDs among 23 catches.

■ Vanderpool leads the defense with 99 tackles, and sophomore Michael Valdez has 98 stops. Both play linebacker. The Pirates have 28 sacks and have intercepted 10 passes.

About Paonia

■ The Eagles won the 1A Western Slope Conference with a 5-0 mark, shutting out second-place Hotchkiss and third-place Cedaredge in consecutive weeks to close the regular season.

■ Paonia’s lone loss was 27-14 to No. 3 seed Centauri. The Eagles have won seven in a row since then, outscoring opponents 265-42 in those wins and winning three of them by shutout. Only one team has surpassed eight points against the defense during that stretch.

■ Sophomore Taylor Walters has been the Eagles’ most dangerous weapon, lining up at quarterback or running back. He has rushed for 1,665 yards, which ranks seventh in the state among all classes. He surpassed 300 yards on the ground one game and rushed for more than 200 yards in two other games. He has completed 24 of 51 passes for 565 yards and eight TDs.

■ Senior running back Will Austin is second on the team with 897 yards, averaging 8.2 yards per carry.

■ When Walters isn’t under center, senior Ty Coats is the quarterback, and he has completed 13 of 21 passes for 233 yards and six TDs.

■ The leading receivers are junior tight ends Logan Schopp, who has 16 catches, 296 yards and four TDs, and Joel Simianer with 10 catches for 262 yards and seven TDs.

■ Schopp and Simianer also play linebacker and have 61 and 49 tackles, respectively. Junior linebacker Gunnar Chesnik has 55 tackles, and senior lineman Tony Darling has 50 tackles, including 13 for losses, plus 3 1/2 sacks. Austin has three sacks as a defensive end.



Paonia and Monte Vista play in different conferences, but they have a better measuring stick than most playoff opponents who didn’t meet in the regular season: six common opponents.

The Eagles and the Pirates, who face each other in the second round of the Class 1A football playoffs at 1 p.m. Saturday in Paonia, had similar results in four of those games:

■ Each scored at least 40 points in beating Lake County, Roaring Fork and Dolores.

■ Both lost by two touchdowns to Centauri, with Paonia bowing 27-14 and Monte Vista losing 14-0.

Where they differ is their games against Hotchkiss and Cedaredge:

■ Paonia beat Hotchkiss 21-0; Monte Vista lost 34-33 to the Bulldogs.

■ Both played Cedaredge in the past two weeks. Paonia had the easier time, beating the Bruins 40-0 two weeks ago. Monte Vista (8-2) topped Cedaredge 20-7 last weekend in a first-round playoff game.

Fourth-seeded Paonia (9-1) followed up its win over the Bruins with a 34-6 victory over Colorado Springs Christian in a first-round playoff game.

Trying to gauge the outcome based on common opponents is fun for fans but means little to coaches, said first-year Eagles coach Brent McRae.

“Really the matchups are totally different, and the day is different,” McRae said.

Instead, McRae has studied game film of the Pirates and observed “probably the hardest-playing team we’ve seen.”

That was evident on both sides of the ball, he said.

Monte Vista can throw and run and doesn’t feature any player on offense, although McRae said quarterback Michael Sanchez is a little guy (5-foot-9, 153 pounds) who makes big plays. He’s quick and throws a good ball, McRae said of the senior who has thrown for more than 1,200 yards and 21 touchdowns and has run for 317 yards.

The Pirates’ defense also makes a statement on film, as McRae said, “It looks like there are 13-14 guys out there, the way they fly to the ball.”

The Eagles will give Monte Vista’s defense plenty to contend with, starting with Taylor Walters, a sophomore who tore up the Class 1A Western Slope Conference as a quarterback and running back. His 1,665 yards rushing is second in Class 1A and seventh in the entire state. 

Over the past six games, Walters has averaged 167 yards rushing per game.

“Our (offensive) line has been really good this year,” Walters said. “I mean, they were pretty good at the beginning of the year, but they’ve just been getting better and better every game. They’ve been extending our drives and just getting us holes. It’s great when you can see all your blockers push everyone out of the way and it’s just wide-open green.”

After a 4-5 season in 2012, Walters said this level of success wasn’t expected, but the Eagles have gotten better and smarter game after game.

Walters has been the star, but Paonia has other skill players and the ability to change up its offense to get matchups it desires. Sometimes Walters moves to running back, and senior Ty Coats steps in at quarterback.

Will Austin is a hard-running senior sitting three yards shy of 900 yards rushing. McRae can’t say enough good things about the blocking and pass catching of junior tight ends Logan Schopp and Joel Simianer.

Paonia also will enter the game 100 percent healthy for the first time this season.

“We’re strong right now,” McRae said. “We’re ready to go.”


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