Delta, playing in its new 2A classification, wasn't able to keep up with 3A Palisade in a battle of fierce competitors last Thursday night at Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction. The Bulldogs scored the game's first two touchdowns to take an early 14-0 lead and then held on to outscore Delta 20-6 in the fourth quarter for a 41-17 non-conference victory.
Delta, in its last four years as a 3A team, had been able to win the annual battle between the two teams and owned a 4-0 record over the Bulldogs coming into Thursday's contest.
Palisade didn't get any help in it first possession following a Delta three-and-out possession by the Panthers. P.J. Riddle either ran or threw for the Bulldogs 56 yards in eight plays for the game's first score with 7:41 left in the first period.
Riddle ran for 23 yards in the opening drive and completed passes of 14 and 17 yards on the drive. His 2-yard plunge capped the drive with Isaac Maestas' kick giving the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead.
Delta's second possession ended when Kole Roberts was intercepted by Palisade senior Miguel Quintana giving possession to the Bulldogs at the Delta 20. Four plays later Riddle carried the ball into the end zone from the nine-yard line with five minutes left in the quarter. Maestas' kick made it 14-0.
A Riddle fumble near the end of the first quarter was recovered by the Panthers at the Bulldogs' 26-yard line. The Panthers moved the ball to Palisade's 12 with AB Ontiveros nailing a 29-yard field goal for Delta's first points of the game with 11:08 left before halftime.
A Palisade drive beginning on the Bulldogs' 20 stalled at Delta's 29 when Palisade failed to make a first down giving the ball back to the Panthers at their own 29.
Delta used 14 plays to cover the 71 yards to paydirt with Tristan Brown bulling in from the 1-yard line with 38.4 seconds left in the first half. Ontiveros' PAT kick made it 14-10 with teams heading to their locker rooms for halftime.
The Bulldogs took the second half kickoff and marched 80 yards in 14 plays to boost its lead to 21-10 following Riddles' 2-yard run and Maestas' point after kick with 6:14 left in the third frame.
Delta wasted no time in answering the Bulldogs latest score. With the Panthers' possession starting on their own 36, Damon Jensen dazzled the crowd with a weaving, and tackle-breaking, run which ended 64 yards later in the end zone. Ontiveros' kick made it 21-17 with 5:58 left in the third quarter.
Beau Byers intercepted Riddle on Palisade's first play of its possession beginning on the Bulldogs' 26. Delta was unable to use the turnover to its advantage and punted the ball back to the Bulldogs and a final possession in the third quarter at the Palisade 33.
The Bulldogs ran seven plays before the third period ended and moved the ball to Delta's 27 as the quarter ended.
Riddle hit Dan McLean for the final 27 yards when play resumed in the fourth quarter. The scoring drive covered 67 yards and took nine plays with Maestas' kick giving the Bulldogs a 28-17 lead with 11:53 left in the game.
A 36-yard scamper by Riddle on Palisade's next possession set up Austin Bernal's 11-yard touchdown run with 7:42 left in the game. With Maestas' kick Palisade owned a 35-17 advantage.
Delta's next possession ended with Bernal's interception of a Roberts' aerial. Palisade failed to take advantage of the Panthers' miscue when Maestas missed an attempted 42-yard field goal
Palisade pilfered another Roberts pass which led to a Tanner Pratt 48-yard touchdown bolt up the middle of the field with 43.2 seconds left in the game. Maestas' kick failed and left the Bulldogs ahead 41-17.
Delta's offense gave up a third interception in the period when Bernal picked Roberts to end the game.
Jensen, Delta's speedy tailback, leads Class 2A rushers with 716 yards and has scored six touchdowns in 2016. The shifty senior averages 238.7 yards per game. He is ninth in scoring with 36 points. Against Palisade Jensen rushed for 108 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown.
Riddle had 144 yards (17 carries) on the ground with three touchdowns and threw for 137 yards and a touchdown to lead Palisade's offense. Pratt finished with 108 yards on eight carries and a touchdown.
The Panthers begin league play this week with a trek to Pagosa Springs this Friday (Sept. 30). Game time is set for 7 p.m. Delta will end regular season play with conference games against Alamosa (Oct. 7), at Cortez (Oct. 14), at home against Bayfield (Oct. 21) and the regular season finale with Gunnison on Oct. 28.
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the Delta County Board of Commissioners called a special meeting to consider the board's response to the Bureau of Land Management's preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) concerning the lease parcels proposed for the December BLM sale.
Several people from the North Fork were present to provide input.