Delta High School's latest adventure was its first-ever sorte into the Class 2A state high school football championships last weekend. The Panthers, No. 10 seeded and 6-3 overall, traveled to Faith Christian High School to take on the No. 7, and 6-3, Eagles in first 2A first round playoff action.
Delta and Faith Christian entertained fans, who like defensive football, with a 14-7 nailbiter in Arvada on Saturday afternoon.
Although the contest produced a low-scoring affair, Delta's Panthers controlled the game on both sides of the ball. Differences in the game included an inordinate amount of penalties, more miscues and mistakes either team wanted to see and a Panther defense which refused to lose.
Delta led in most of the game categories, including penalties, where the Panthers (unofficially) had 12 penalties for 105 yards. Penalties either cost Delta touchdowns on two occasions or prevented them from scoring touchdowns from close range.
Delta led the first down category with a 13-3 difference.
Some changes to Delta's offensive strategy included setting Tristan Brown in the I-formation directly behind quarterback Kole Roberts and placing usual tailback Damon Jensen in Brown's position as a slot or wingback.
Brown's running brought the hoped for positive results with 21 rushes for 130 yards and one touchdown. Brown started the game with three straight runs for 17 yards which ultmately set up Kole Roberts' 23-yard touchdown toss to senior Beau Byers for the game's first score with 7:21 left in the opening period. The scoring drive took seven plays and covered 46 yards with A.B. Ontiveros kicking the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
In the remaining 4:39 of the first quarter, Delta accumulated four penalties and never got past its 46-yard line on the first quarter's last drive.
The Panthers punted the ball away to begin the second quarter.
A three and out for Faith Christian gave the ball back to Delta, with an illegal block penalty pushing the ball back to the 50-yard line for the Panthers' next possession.
After a 12-yard first-down run by Jensen, Delta got a punishing 30-yard run from Brown down to Faith Chrisitan's eight-yard line where he fumbled the ball which was recovered by the Eagles.
Following a three and out by the Eagles, Delta got the ball back on a punt and began its next drive on the Panthers' 25-yard line.
Brown's second run of seven yards, in the drive, gave the Panthers a first down. A holding penalty set the Panthers back and they were unable to regain the momentum they had to begin the drive and lost the ball on downs after an incompleted pass intended for Byers.
Neither team could orchestrate a scoring drive in the closing minutes of the first half and the Panthers took a 7-0 lead to their locker room at halftime.
Delta received the ball to begin the second half and after moving to its own 42, the Panthers lost ground on a penalty which placed the ball on Delta's 30-yard line. On the next play, Roberts found Ontiveros all alone on the right side line for a 44-yard pass to the Eagles 34. Jensen lost five yards on the next play bringing up a second and 15 at the 39. The next run from Jensen was a pinball run as he bounced off would-be tacklers and powered his way to the 1-yard line where he was stripped of the ball. Two personal fouls from that spot marched the ball back to Delta's 35 where Faith Christian took over.
Freshman quarterback Isaiah Kroll found a receiver who had gotten behind the defense for a 65-yard scoring toss. The PAT kick made the score 7-7 with 8:49 left in the first half.
After a couple of first downs on its next possession, Delta was forced to punt the ball away.
Delta's defense held tight and forced a fumble at the Eagles' 45 where junior Logan Church fell on the ball to give the Panthers possession at Faith Christian's 43-yard line.
Brown and Jensen accounted for 36 yards on the next five running plays and Roberts rushed for five yards to the two. An offside penalty on Faith Christian had the ball at the 1-yard line with Brown bulling his way into the end zone for the score with no time left on the clock in the third period. Ontiveros' kick made the score 14-7 as the game entered fourth quarter play.
Momentum was on Delta's side as the final quarter began. Two plays into Faith Christian's possession, Jason Kaign recovered an Eagles' fumble to give Delta the ball at its own 38-yard line.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, it was a three and out and Ontiveros punted the ball down to Faith Christian's 16-yard line. A pass from Kroll to Ty Ritter covered 26 yards to highlight the Eagles' possession, but it wasn't enough and Faith Christian had to punt.
Delta held onto the ball for most of the last half of the fourth quarter with big plays from Roberts (11-yard run), Jensen (15-yard pass from Roberts) and a seven-yard scamper from Ethan Keller, producing first downs. A holding penalty took the wind out of Delta's sails and the Panthers turned the ball over on downs with less than two minutes left in the game.
Faith Christian's hopes were ended when junior Jason Kaign intercepted a Kroll pass.
The Panthers finished the game with 311 yards rushing, 130 from Brown and another 120 from Jensen on 16 carries.
Byers was Delta's top receiver with 50 yards on four receptions and a touchdown. Ontiveros had two catches for 49 yards.
Roberts finished the game 8 of 13 in the passing department for 113 yards. Combined, the Panthers finished the game with 424 yards of offense.
Defensively, the Panthers finished the game with 41 total tackles. Leading the way was Class 2A tackles leader Brown with eight. Brown has 112 to lead 2A classification players. Others with stellar performances in the game included Sam Komives (7), Gerardo Muniz (7) and Logan Church (6).
Recording sacks for the Panthers were Gerardo, Church and Josh Reeder, all juniors.
Assistant coach Paul Shean noted the Panthers need to clean up some things, including penalties and execution.
Delta will host the quarterfinal round of the Class 2A playoffs on Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. at Panther Stadium.
The seventh annual Eckert Crane Days, the annual viewing of the sandhill cranes migrating north from New Mexico through Colorado's West Slope, will be March 16-18. Representatives from the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society (BCAS) will be at the viewing site east of Eckert at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, 9 to 11 a.m. each day, to answer questions and provide binoculars and spotting scopes.