PAONIA, Colo. (KKCO) The entire season was almost unbelievable for Paonia and the rest of the 1A football community.
After several years of middle-of-the-pack football, the Eagles went out and hired Brent McRae, one of last season's assistant coaches.
In his first year, the team was able to claim the CHSAA 1A State Championship in an emotional victory.
"The expectation is kind of there, but you don't anticipate it," McRae said. "But when you work hard and you believe, anything is possible. These boys just played so hard. They played their hearts out. Never give up, never die and you win. You see what happens."
"I really thought we could go a long ways, I just wasn't sure how far," said senior running back Will Austin. "It's just beyond my dreams right now. I couldn't have pictured this. Just in my imagination."
The game didn't start well for the Eagles after Centauri quarterback KC Jarvies hooked up with Jason Buhr over the middle for the game's first score to make it 6-0.
Paonia countered with a nice drive that ended in an Austin one-yard touchdown rush.
The Falcons came right back and made it 12-6 after Jarvies found Buhr again, who eluded some tacklers and took it in from 26 yards out.
Centauri, up by six, was driving down the field again, but the game was flipped on its head when sophomore Taylor Walters anticipated an out-route, snagged the Jarvies pass, and took it to the end-zone to give Paonia its first lead at 13-12.
Then it was the special teams that showed up.
They were able to take advantage of Centauri's hybrid punt formation that stationed the P/QB only about seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. Gunner Chesnik broke through the line and blocked the punt, giving the Eagles field position inside Falcon territory.
That's when they began to stack up the points. Walters, playing quarterback on this possession for the offense, launched a pass down the left sideline to receiver Josh Altman who broke the coverage. It was a 37 yard touchdown pass that put them up 19-12.
Playing running back behind Ty Coats, Walters was able to follow that up in the third quarter. Following the offensive line that's been opening up holes and making life easy for the backs all season long, Walters took it 58 yards on the ground for the score.
Add a 29 yard touchdown pass to Logan Shoppe, and Walters had himself an enormous day: two passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown.
Up by eight with time running out on third down, the Eagles needed a first down to keep the Falcon offense off the field. Once again, the O-line came through in a big way when Walters handed the ball off to Austin who churned out a hard six yards to earn the first down and seal the game.
Final score: Paonia 32, Centauri 24.
Paonia finishes out their season with a 12-1 record and avenges their early season loss to Centauri.
It is Paonia's first state championship title since 1959; several of the players from the '59 squad were at the field Saturday to watch their accomplishment repeated.
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