Football: Mustangs ground Eagles in Kremmling
Sky-Hi Daily News
The West Grand football team put the frosting on the cake of a good season with a 27-14 victory over the Paonia Eagles in a contest Friday night in Kremmling.
The Mustangs posted a season record of 5-4, including a 4-2 mark in the Western Slope League. Grand Valley won the league with a 6-0 mark while Hayden, Meeker and West Grand all finished 4-2.
The seeding for the playoffs were determined at a state Colorado State High School Activities Association meeting on Sunday, but it was not expected that the Mustangs would receive a playoff spot.
The game against Paonia started with a bang. Louie Farrell put the Mustangs in good field position with a kickoff return to the West Grand 40 yard line. After a four-yard run by Cory Davis, Mackenzie Widener threw a pass to Marshall Kraker who had gotten open behind the Paonia secondary. The result was a 56-yard touchdown play before a minute had elapsed from the play clock.
Sky Handyside tacked on the PAT and it was 7-0 in favor of the homestanding Mustangs in the last regular season game of the year.
Paonia displayed their quick-strike ability and responded with a touchdown drive of its own. After a long kickoff return, Taylor Bradford scored on a 20-yard run on the fourth play from scrimmage. During the drive, it was Jordan Van Vleet who gained most of the yardage.
It appeared that it would be a wild evening with a lot of scoring, but order was soon restored as the defenses for both teams responded and made the necessary adjustments to slow down the opposing offense.
The next scoring opportunity for West Grand was created when Farrell intercepted a Paonia pass and returned it 10 yards to the Paonia 37-yard line. The senior defensive end played perfect defense on a pass into the flat and stepped in front of the intended receiver to make the pick.
On the ensuing offensive possession, Widener hit Farrell on two plays that covered 12 yards apiece. Davis covered the last six yards for the score and, after Handyside’s handiwork with his right foot, the score was 14-7.
The defense for West Grand dug its heels in on the next possession and forced Paonia to turn over the ball on downs. Inexplicably the Eagles tried to convert a fourth and four while in its own territory.
All night long, the Mustang defensive line of Cory Burr, Drew Sidener, Colton Lawson, Patrick Quinlan, Keith Jones and Curtis Fredrickson applied pressure to the Paonia quarterback and stuffed the middle on the run. Playing behind those linemen were defensive ends Handyside and Farrell and linebackers Eric Scholl and Davis.
The defensive backfield spots are manned by Ray Vasquez, Drew Klotz, Kraker and Mackenzie Widener.
The Mustang offense responded by marching downfield behind the running of Connor Widener, Davis, Mackenzie Widener and Farrell, who covered the final six yards for the touchdown. The offensive charge was led by linemen Austin Sabados, Michael Bunker, Travis Marquardt, Jones and Sidener.
Handyside added the PAT and the Mustangs had converted two-score lead, with a 21-7 advantage.
There was some excitement near the end of the first half when Paonia marched smartly downfield and had a first and goal from the 6 yard line. A key play in the goal-line stand was when Davis sacked the quarterback on second down for a nine-yard loss. The final play of the scoring threat was an incomplete pass when defensive pressure forced a hurried throw.
The second half was largely uneventful until the fourth quarter when Paonia completed a long pass down the west sideline. The receiver for the Eagles had one player to beat when he simply lost control of the football.
Klotz, who was trailing on the play and was moving in for the tackle, alertly shifted into reverse and was the first player to get back to the ball and recover the fumble.
As any good team does, the Mustangs responded to the turnover to make the Eagles pay for their miscue.
The key run in the scoring drive was a 20-yard run by Farrell. Two plays later, Davis capped the scoring for the evening with a one-yard touchdown plunge. Davis attempted to dropkick the extra point, but was unsuccessful.
Paonia scored a late touchdown to make the score 27-14, but the onside kick for the Eagles was recovered by Burr and the Mustangs ran out the clock.
After the game, coach Chris Brown said he had truly enjoyed the season and the football players. They worked hard the entire year and finished on a high note. It was a team that was marked with spirited play and team that appeared to be having a great time.
It was also a group that exhibited a lot of class. That was on display again when the Mustangs shook hands with the players from Paonia not once (during the traditional handshake line after the game) but twice. They waited until the Eagles finished their postgame meeting and greeted them again when they left the field.
The Mustangs lose a large and talented senior class to graduation. Those seniors were honored prior to the game in a ceremony in which their parents were also recognized. Those players are: Austin Sabados, Cory Davis, Colton Lawson, Drew Sidener, Mackenzie Widener, Louie Farrell, Patrick Quinlan, Michael Bunker, Robert Alvarez, Marshall Kraker, Austin Long and Keith Jones.
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