Super sophomores stoked

Paonia knows it must contain Buena Vista QB

Paonia quarterback Taylor Walters looks to pass against Colorado Springs Christian during the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.


Class 1A Playoffs

No. 4 Paonia (10-1) at No. 1 Buena Vista (11-0)

Semifinals, 1 p.m. Saturday in Buena Vista


Paonia — Brent McRae, first year

Buena Vista — Matt Flavin, third year as head coach, 10th year with Demons. Led team to state title game last year. Demons lost 18-16 to Cedaredge.

About Paonia

■ Paonia won the Western Slope Conference and ended the regular season with impressive shutout wins over Hotchkiss and Cedaredge, both playoff teams.

■ The Eagles rely heavily on a powerful running game that averages 317 yards a game. Paonia does have success throwing the ball and has averaged 91 yards a game through the air. They have averaged 35 points a game. Defensively, the Eagles have three shutouts and have only allowed 117 points this season.

■ Sophomore quarterback Taylor Walters has rushed for an astounding 1,731 yards and 20 TDs. Senior Will Austin, who has 1,124 yards and has averaged close to nine yards a carry, gives the Eagles a good 1-2 punch in the running game. Fullback Gunnar Chesnik has added 334 yards rushing.

■ Walters has 676 yards passing and nine TDs. Senior Ty Coats sees action at QB in certain formations and has throw for 233 yards and six TDs this season.

■ Logan Schopp has 18 catches for 335 yards to lead the team. Joel Simianer has 12 catches for 285 yards and eight touchdowns.

■ Schopp and Simianer lead a stout defense with 72 and 62 tackles respectively. Chesnik has added 66 tackles and three sacks, and senior lineman Tony Darling has 51 tackles, 15 for losses.

■ Getting here: The Eagles defeated Colorado Springs Christian 34-6 and Monte Vista 31-15.

About Buena Vista

■ The Demons won the Tri-Peaks Conference and are looking to return to the 1A state title game for a second straight year.

■ Buena Vista average 270 yards rushing and 119 yards passing on the season. The powerful offense has scored 465 yards on the season, an average of 42 points a game. Defensively, the Demons’ athletic secondary has grabbed 14 interceptions on the season.

■ Sophomore quarterback Keegan Waltz has rushed for 1,228 yards and 21 TDs on the season. He’s also thrown for 1,319 yards and 14 TDs. He has four interceptions. The Demons look to take their shots down the field in the passing game and have averaged more than 20 yards a reception. They have three other runners who have had success this year, rushing for 496, 502 and 634 yards.

■ Zakk James leads the team with 31 catches for 663 yards and eight touchdowns. He averages more than 21 yards a catch. Andy McFarland has 16 catches for 278 yards.

■ On defense, linebackers Will Osborne and Michael Wilcoxson have both averaged close to 12 tackles a game. McFarland leads the team with three interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

■ Getting here: Buena Vista defeated Front Range Christian 48-12 and Resurrection Christian 42-35.

It will be a matchup of talented sophomore quarterbacks when top-seeded Buena Visa (11-0) battles fourth-seeded Paonia (10-1) Saturday in the Class 1A semifinals.

For Paonia, Taylor Walters moved from tailback to QB about the midway point of the season. He’s been shredding opposing defenses all season and has more than 1,700 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.

First-year Paonia coach Brent McRae said if the Eagles are going to pull off the upset, they will have to contain Buena Vista’s “big, fast and really good” sophomore quarterback Keegan Waltz.

Waltz has rushed for more than 1,200 yards and thrown for another 1,300 yards this season. He has 21 rushing TDs and 14 TD passes.

Buena Vista is looking to return to the Class 1A state title game this year after a tough 18-16 loss to Cedaredge last year. But this year’s team didn’t return a lot of its players from the 2012 team.

Coach Matt Flavin said he used the title game loss as motivation early for the Demons but as the season wore on, he focused on this year’s team.

“I talked about (last year’s) team early but I’ve really tried to emphasize that this is this year and let’s quit talking about last year. This is a different team,” he said.

Flavin is well aware of the explosiveness of Paonia’s running game including Walter’s dominating season. But the veteran coach said that the Eagles’ tailback Will Austin is a force, too.

“(Austin) is a load, he really scares me,” he said.

Austin, a 6-1, 185-pound senior, has rushed for more than 1,100 yards, averaging close to nine yards a carry.

McRae said their success is tied directly to their offensive and defensive lines.

“They’re a pretty tight group, and they take pride in getting the job done,” he said.

The Eagles have good size, including a pair of 240-pound linemen.

Defensively, the Eagles have recorded three shutouts and held another four teams to just one score.

Junior defensive end Logan Schopp and junior linebacker Gunnar Chesnik lead the team in tackles, and 240-pound senior Tony Darling has 15 tackles for losses.

The Eagles established themselves as a defensive power with back-to-back shutouts over playoff teams Hotchkiss and Cedaredge to end the regular season.

Led by two linebackers who have recorded a combined 269 tackles, Buena Vista also has a stout defense. Will Osborne, a 175-pound senior, and 170-pound junior Michael Wilcoxson have both averaged nearly 12 tackles a game.

McRae said that avoiding mistakes will be the key for the Eagles.

“We’re going to have to make plays, prevent penalties and prevent turnovers,” he said, adding that the Eagles have lost at least one fumble in every game this year.

Flavin said his team has “exceeded our expectations.” He says that they are a very athletic team and that the game will feature a pair of good running teams.

“We’re going to have to stop their running game if we want to win the game,” he said.

Even though the Demons rely heavily on Waltz, they have three other backs who have rushed for more than 496 yards.

With a relatively inexperienced team, Flavin said last year’s playoff run has helped the team.

“Last year did help because they got to be around those kids and see what it looks like to be a competitor,” he said.

For McRae, the formula is simple: Contain their young quarterback, avoid turnovers and use their explosive running attack to move the ball and find the end zone.

The team’s common opponents this season were Hotchkiss and Colorado Springs Christian. The Demons beat Hotchkiss 20-14 win in the second week and Colorado Springs Christian 52-20 to end the regular season. The Eagles beat their Delta County rival 21-0 in Week 8 and powered past Colorado Springs Christian 34-6 in the first round of the playoffs.

Saturday’s winner moves into the state title game against the winner of No. 2 Limon (11-0) and No. 3 Centauri (10-1).

Paonia’s lone loss was 27-13 to Centauri way back in Week 3.


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