The Delta Panthers are moving on. After a defensive battle with Glenwood Springs, the Panthers evened their season record against the Demons with a 13-9 win in the second round of the 2013 Class 3A state football playoffs.
A brilliant goal-line stand from the Delta two-yard line stopped Glenwood Springs on four straight running plays and gave the Panthers the ball at their own 4 with 15 seconds left in the game.
Earlier in the season, in week five, Delta traveled to Glenwood for a miserable experience in a 15-7 loss. That loss eventually cost the Panthers a higher seed in this year's state playoffs and now looks as though it might have been a blessing.
The two teams met again in the second round after posting narrow wins to begin their playoff runs. Glenwood Springs eked out a 14-13 win over number five Elizabeth while the Panthers needed an overtime period to get past number four Holy Family, 42-41.
When Delta and Glenwood Springs met in that earlier game, the weather was worse than bad. Rain, sleet, snow and wind hampered both teams. A drier field would have produced a few more points. In their last meeting, Saturday, the game was played in nearly the same conditions. There wasn't so much wind, but the rain (sometimes mixed with snow) was constant throughout the game.
Both teams missed blocks, cuts and tackles due to slippage on the saturated turf.
A normal day for Delta's Cade Gafford would have meant around 160 yards of passing offense and a touchdown or two. Last Saturday's totals for Gafford included one for seven passing with just 15 yards and no touchdowns.
All of Delta's scoring came in the first period of play. Sophomore Jonny Ponce broke off right tackle for 37 yards and outran the Demon defense down the right sideline to the end zone for six points. Freshman Abraham Ontiveros' kick for the extra point sliced wide to leave Delta ahead 6-0 with 9:51 left in the first quarter.
Later in the opening period, junior kicker Robert Hiles produced Glenwood's first score of the day with a 30-yard field goal with 1:33 left in the quarter.
Delta's next possession generated the Panthers' second touchdown on a Ponce 60-yard scamper down the right sideline once again. Ontiveros' kick was good this time, giving Delta a 13-3 lead with 43 seconds left in the first period.
Neither team was particularly adept with their offense in the second quarter with defense highlighting play in the period.
A fumble recovery by the Panthers with 1:33 left before halftime fizzled out to leave the score at 13-3.
The Panthers held Glenwood Springs on the Demons' first offensive possession of the second half and set the stage for what would be a mistake-prone second half of play.
The Panthers fared no better on their first offensive possession of the second half and punted the ball back to Glenwood.
A series of exchanges left both teams scrambling for field position for most of the third period.
Late in the third, Glenwood Springs scored on a 22-yard screen pass to Henry Hill. The point after kick was blocked, leaving the score at 13-9 in Delta's favor.
A Delta fumble on the ensuing kickoff had the Glenwood sidelines celebrating a possible go-ahead score by the Demons. With 1:40 left in the third, and the ball resting on the Panthers' 28-yard line, Delta's defense stiffened once again and prevented a serious scoring threat.
In the fourth quarter, the exchange of punts between the two teams gave the Demons a decided field position advantage. Glenwood was able to begin its last drive of the game at Delta's 39-yard line.
Glenwood moved the ball inside the Panthers' 5-yard line at the 2 with a first-and-goal. That would be as close as the Demons would get as Delta's defense stopped Glenwood on three straight runs and eventually took over on downs at its own 4-yard line with under a minute to play.
Two straight kneel-downs sealed the win for Delta, advancing it to the semifinal round for the first time since the late '90s.
Assistant coach Ryan Whittington put Delta's defensive efforts into perspective following the game. "Great team effort all the way around; offense, defense, special teams." As for the defensive effort in the final minutes of play, "Shows the heart of our defense. Shows the heart of our team. We've been consistent all year; we've showed a lot of heart. I'm just proud of them!"
As far as picking a defensive standout for the Panthers, Whittington didn't have just one individual. "I can't single out one player. All 11 guys were swarming to the ball with four or five in on each play." The last defensive play of the game wasn't a stunt. "We called our base defense and Coach Johnson told someone to make a play."
Against Silver Creek on Saturday, Whittington believes the game can be won with a team effort. "They have good personnel and run a no-huddle offense. We must be real physical because they have good speed and strong quarterback play."
Jeremy McCormick, an assistant coach for the Panthers, was pleased for the Panthers and their success. "They've been winning here for a while. The coaches have done a great job. The kids did a great job today. The last time we played Glenwood, Henry Hill ran all over us. We contained him today. Defense played well and we moved the ball offensively. We're back in the semis."
From coach Ben Johnson, "Our defense played well today. Our line played well and our linebackers played well. The defensive backs weren't really tested today with the weather the way it was."
One of the statistics that reads close to true for the tendencies the Panthers have had all season is the performance of Ponce. He ran for 165 yards on a terrible day for most rushers. He carried the ball 25 times and scored two touchdowns that provided the biggest part of the winning margin of victory.
In all, the Panthers had a combined 189 yards of offense; that was well below their season average of 164 yards receiving and 212.6 yards of rushing.
In looking at comparisons of the Silver Creek Raptors' offense and defense, there are some similarities between Delta and Silver Creek.
Senior Ben Sjobakken leads the Raptors' offense at quarterback with 138 completions in 222 attempts for 2182 yards. That's a .622 percentage for 218 yards a game with 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Gafford, Delta's quarterback, has 1922 yards on 134 completions in 231 attempts for a .580 percentage. He is averaging 164 yards per game with 23 touchdowns and three interceptions.
In the rushing department, Delta's Ponce has taken over the state's top spot for rushers with 219 carries and 1668 yards. He has scored 16 touchdowns with a 139-yard average per game and a 7.62 per carry average. Ponce is 5-10 and weighs 175 pounds.
Silver Creek's Anthony Casper (So) is rated 13th with 1024 yards on 123 carries; that equates to 8.3 yards a carry and 128 yards a game. He has scored nine touchdowns and is 5-10 and 170 pounds.
The Raptors' Josh Quiroz (Sr) is a 5-7, 170-pound running back who has 657 yards on 81 carries for six touchdowns and a per-carry average of 8.1.
Delta's receiving corps is led by senior Ryan Whiteside. He is rated second in the state in 3A with 64 catches for 1006 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averages 15.7 yards a catch and is averaging 91.5 yards a game. Whiteside is 6-3 and weighs 160 pounds.
Devin Williams is in the top 50 in receiving with 345 yards and 15 catches for four touchdowns.
Silver Creek has three top-50 receivers with senior Eric Machmuller leading the way with 736 yards and 42 receptions. He stands 6-1 and weighs 190 with a 17.7 per-catch average and 73.8 yards a game. Machmuller has scored seven touchdowns.
The Raptors' Zane Lindsay has 11 touchdowns on 39 catches for 558 yards and Brock Ricks has five touchdowns on 24 catches and 385 yards.blog comments powered by Disqus