Paonia ready for Round 2
Hard-charging Monte Vista on tap for Paonia
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.”