For the second season in a row, Delta's Panthers have had the better team on the gridiron and produced a 3A WSL key victory over Palisade. This year's win, a 31-21 decision, was a bigger difference than the score indicates for the most part.
Delta dominated the first half of play. Senior Tyler Sandoval caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Delta quarterback Cade Gafford to give the Panthers an early 7-0 lead following freshman Kole Roberts' PAT kick. The drive covered 80 yards and left 4:31 on the scoreboard clock in the first period.
Palisade's first possession didn't go as the Bulldogs had planned as Ryan Whiteside intercepted a Levi Hoaglund pass to stop a good Palisade drive. Whiteside returned the ball to the Palisade 45-yard line with 2:47 left in the opening frame.
Delta lost the ball on downs to set up Palisade's next possession at the Bulldogs' 25. The Panthers' defense held and Delta's next possession began on its own 29.
A punt back to Palisade set the Bulldogs up at their own 21-yard line with 9:51 left in the first half. Hoaglund gave the Bulldogs their first score with a 35-yard scamper with 9:07 left in the second quarter. The PAT off the foot of David Combs made the score 7-7.
Delta's next possession began at the Panthers' 20-yard line. One of the game's most exciting plays of the game occured next with sophomore Jonney Ponce taking the ball off left tackle and rambling 80 yards for Delta's second touchdown of the game at the 8:52 mark of the second quarter. Robert's kick made the score 14-7.
The Bulldogs began their next drive at their own 36-yard line. After driving the ball to Delta's 3, a fumble by Hoaglund was recovered by the Panthers at Palisade's 5-yard line.
Delta moved the ball, with a mixture of passing and running plays, to the Bulldogs' 3-yard line.
A bit of trickery set up Delta's next score, with Gafford pitching the ball to halfback Derek Horn going to his right. Horn pulled up to throw a 3-yard pass to Whiteside deep in the end zone for the score with 10 seconds left in the first half. Roberts booted the extra point, giving Delta a 21-7 halftime lead over the Bulldogs.
Palisade couldn't do anything with the first possession of the second half and Delta got the ball back following a punt at its own 11-yard line.
The Bulldogs took advantage of a Gafford errant aerial that was intercepted by Tass Crow that was returned 48 yards for a touchdown with 6:15 left in the third period. Delta led 21-13.
Palisade took advantage of penalties against the Panthers and the strong running of Hoaglund to score from 25 yards out. A Hoaglund run for two points on the conversion tied the game at 21-21 with under a minute left in the third period.
Delta continued its possession from the end of the third quarter and finished the drive with a Gafford pass to sophomore tight end Kory Komives from 9 yards out. Roberts' kick made it 28-21 with 8:30 left in the game.
Delta held Palisade's offense in check and took over at its own 1-yard line to begin its final drive of the game. The running of Ponce and the passing of Gafford combined to move the ball to Palisade's 3-yard line before the drive stalled. Roberts gave the Panthers some breathing room with a 20-yard field goal, giving Delta a 10-point lead at 31-21 with 1:53 left in the game.
A Whiteside interception at the goal line stopped a Palisade desperation drive and preserved a key 31-21 3A WSL victory.
Whiteside's outstanding play was just one of a number of times in several games this season. "It was crunch time and I just did what I had to do and Cade throws a good ball," quoted Whiteside, referring to a long pass reception late in the game to keep a Panther scoring drive alive.
Ponce had the game of his career with all but one of Delta's rushes from the line of scrimmage. Gafford had a third-down run for 7 yards that kept the last Panthers' scoring drive alive. The remaining 32 rushes for Delta came from Ponce with an accumulation of 293 yards and a touchdown. With the three catches and 27 yards in the passing game, Ponce finished with 320 combined yards.
Ponce's success was based on several things. According to Ponce, "I just rely on my linemen to block and I cut off their blocks and use my instincts."
Head coach Ben Johnson was pleased with the key 3A WSL win. "I thought our kids played really well. They were prepared for this game. I thought we had the game in control but it got away from us. We got it back for the win."
Delta's offensive emphasis was simple. "We wanted to spread them out and throw the ball. We thought we could keep them honest with an inside running game that would make our passing game better," stated Johnson.
"Defensively, we thought their quarterback (Levi Hoaglund) was the key with the dive follow and option play. We lost our focus on him a couple of times, but for the most part, the kids did a nice job," continued Johnson.
On his sophomore running back Ponce, "He's special. He's got the speed, quickness and he's elusive."
Gafford threw the ball 34 times and completed 23 of his passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Whiteside had eight of those catches for 97 yards and a touchdown, with Sandoval hauling in 10 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Kory Mills had the third touchdown pass from 9 yards out.
Defensive stats for the Panthers were not available. Palisade had not entered game stats prior to formatting of stories.
Even though the Bulldogs have a better overall record (7-1) than the Panthers (6-2), both teams are 5-1 in the 3A WSL and have the same mark as Rifle (who was defeated by Palisade). The head-to-head play has the Panthers on top of the league at this time with a crucial meeting in Rifle on Oct. 25.
The Panthers travel to Rifle for this week's key 3A WSL game against the Bears.blog comments powered by Disqus