Defense keys Meeker’s 14-7 victory

MHS CowboyMEEKER I Although the Cowboy offense outscored the Paonia Eagles, according to head coach Shane Phelan, it was Meeker’s defense that won the game.
“Our defense played well,” Phelan said. “To hold a team like Paonia to one touchdown, you have to do a lot of good things out there.”
The Cowboys did do some good things, but they also did some bad things they will need to work on, according to their coach.
“We killed ourselves with turnovers and penalties, they were drive killers,” Phelan said. “We caused some of our own difficulties. We talk about it a lot in practice, how hard we make it on ourselves and how hard they are to overcome, but we fought through it.”
With a 14-7 victory over the Eagles, the Cowboys earned their second league and fifth win of the season. Meeker will now host county rival Rangely Panthers in the annual Rio Blanco County championship Friday in Starbuck Stadium.
Meeker was the first to score in Paonia last Friday, after neither team got on the scoreboard in the first quarter, when senior quarterback Colton Brown connected with Mitch Jacob for a 17-yard touchdown pass. The Cowboys did not convert their two-point attempt and took a 6-0 lead into the third quarter.
According to statistics from MaxPreps, Paonia’s Casey Gillenwater, leads all Western Slope quarterbacks, including completing more than 50 percent of his passes for 1,380 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“Paonia has a really good quarterback, who is only a junior,” Phelan said. “He gets rid of the ball fast.”
Paonia’s record is 1-5, but they have not lost by more than seven points.
“They are a good team, they’re just not over the hump yet,” Phelan said.
“We stuffed the run and didn’t want to give up the big play against them,” Phelan said. Although the Eagles scored on a long pass in the third quarter, Phelan said the receiver was well defended.
Meeker came from behind in the fourth quarter to score the final touchdown on a 10-yard run by Brown, and Jacob added the two-point conversion to make the final score 14-7.
Brown finished the game by completing 11 of 21 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 92 yards. Jacob caught more than half (six) of Brown’s passes for 90 yards and rushed for 114.
Defensively, Meeker created six turnovers, with junior Jake Nieslanik intercepting Gillenwater twice, Jacob one, Brock Campbell one and Cole Steiner ended Paonia’s chance of a comeback with an interception late in the game. Ever Olivas also recovered a fumble.
Now it’s on to Friday’s matchup with rival Rangely. The Panthers are 1-5 on the season.
“You can throw the records out the window on this one,” Phelan said. “Rangely played Hayden tough last week, they have a new coach and new enthusiasm. We are looking forward to the test. I think everyone in the county will be there for this one.”