PEYTON — Forget rain, sleet or snow. The 60-miles per hour wind gusts in Peyton may have been the worst conditions that two group of high school football players may ever face in their lives.
In Saturday's first round game in the Class 1A state football tournament, No. 8 Peyton and No. 9 Paonia had to battle that element as well as each other.
The Eagles may have grabbed the 13-0 win to advance to next week's quarterfinals, but it was anything but easy.
"The conditions were terrible today," Paonia senior running back Jaden Miller said. "We couldn't throw the ball at all, we had to stick to our running game at that was hard."
But it got the job done.
The Eagles (8-2) overall tend not to go to the air very much anyway. But even the dominant running game that sees Miller go for about 145 yards per game took a hit.
He got the ball early and often, but the Eagles had trouble moving against the wind in the first quarter.
Neither team was able to put any points on the board in the first quarter and overall it was clear that typical game plans were going to be tossed out the window due to the wind.
"Playing in this kind of wind hurts you when you can't punt, when can't throw at all and when you can't run an option or a sweep," Eagles coach Blaine Escher said. "That's some tricky stuff."
Going with the wind in the second quarter, Paonia managed to get into the end zone on a one-yard Caden Meiliner run. That score gave the senior quarterback more confidence in what he was hoping the offense could do moving forward.
"At that point we knew we could score on them," Meiliner said. "We knew we could get the job done so at that point it was about execution."
The Panthers (8-2) got the ball to start the second half and were once again moving with the wind. But the Eagles were doing a good job of breaking up run protection up the middle as well as containing the outside.
Peyton struggled to move the ball all day, totaling 63 yards of offense all game, but managed to in Paonia territory late in the quarter.
Knowing his team had to strike before the field flipped, Peyton coach Richard Deems managed the final two minutes of the third quarter like they were the final two minutes at the end of the game.
"The wind was ridiculous," Deems said. "There's nothing we can do about Mother Nature and it limited what we were able to do offensively."
Josh Gonzales led the Panthers with 48 rushing yards. Trevor Walker added 21 but the rest of the team was rendered ineffective.
Even with a six-point lead, the Eagles knew the game was far from in hand. They put together one more good drive that was capped off with a three-yard touchdown run from Miller.
"We knew they were a pretty good team," Miller said. "We knew they were going to fight back hard so we knew we had to score a couple more times."
Turned out the one was more than enough. Miller led all rushers with 93 yards on Saturday and Paonia's hopes of reaching at least the semifinals for a fifth-straight season remain alive.
The Eagles will host No. 1 Bennett next week in the 1A quarterfinals.