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MEEKER I It’s a stretch to compare the Sports Illustrated cover jinx to the Colorado Preps. However, as far as the Cowboys varsity football is concerned the two may be in tandem.
The Preps Network has ranked the Cowboys in the top 10 in the state 1A rankings two times this year. Each time the Cowboys were ranked, the following Friday they suffered a loss. This past Friday was loss No. 2 for the ’Pokes as they fell hard to Western Slope League foe Paonia by a score of 37-0.
Meeker has been fighting the injury bug this season, and Friday’s game wasn’t much different as additional injuries again played a big part of the decision. Although they won the coin flip, the initial series set the tone for the remainder of the game. The Eagles held the ‘Pokes on their first series and the center snap on fourth down ended up sailing over punter Victor Villalpando’s head, which gave the visitors a quick 2-0 lead. The ensuing free kick seemed even bleaker for the Cowboys as Paonia’s Adrian Penny looked to have returned it for a touchdown. Fate smiled briefly on Meeker as a block in the back penalty erased the touchdown. A fumble recovery by Meeker’s Ryan Wix gave the Cowboys back the ball and thwarted an Eagle scoring opportunity. Sophomore quarterback Nate Walsh’s passes to senior tight end Jake Nieslanik had the Cowboys moving down the field just before the quarter ended, but neither team scored any more in the first period.
A Cowboy fumble on their 25 gave Paonia their next chance to score. At 7:47 of the second period, the Eagles’ Adrian Lopez scored from two yards out. The extra point failed, but the visitors took an 8-0 lead. After a Cowboy punt, Lopez again ran the ball over from 20 yards away for a 15-0 halftime lead.
The Cowboy problems continued in the second half as Paonia ran the second half kickoff back to the Cowboy 23. From here, the Eagles’ quarterback Gillenwater hit Escher for a 17-yard TD pass. With Lopez’s extra point, Paonia had extended its lead to 22-0 with 11:08 left to play in the third quarter.
Meeker put together a good drive with runs by Alema Atoafa. The Cowboys marched the ball down to about the Eagle 8-inch line. Here, three unsuccessful attempts to push the ball through the center of the Eagle line resulted in a loss of yards. A fumble on the next play turned the ball over to Paonia. It would be Meeker’s last trip inside the red zone.