PAONIA, Colo. For the last two seasons, the CHSAA 1A state football championship trophy has been brought home by teams on the Western Slope.
In 2012, it was the Cedaredge Bruins, and a year ago, the Paonia Eagles surprised everyone when they defeated Centauri in the championship game.
Now their quest to defend it begins.
A team that was known for their dominance in the trenches returns five of seven offensive line (including tight end) starters from the championship roster, and the majority of their other talent is back as well.
Coach Brent McRae enters his second season in charge, and even though they're the hunted now team now, he continues to push what got them to this point: family.
"We're still going to be a family," McRae said, "we're still going to work hard and have fun and play every game together, because I think it's a special thing to play football in this country. I just tell the boys to enjoy every practice and every game. That's our approach from last year and we're going to continue that this year."
The Eagles begin their season at home on August 29th against Monte Vista.