Even the weather cooperated in aiding Delta High School's football team to earn a victory over visiting Montezuma-Cortez last Thursday evening. Clear skies and cool temperatures made the 2A Intermountain League contest an enjoyable experience.
Mixed with solid defense (most of the contest) and a sparkling offensive effort from running back Brendon Starr, Delta stayed alive in Intermountain League play with a 23-7 win over Cortez. Starr was a one-man wrecking crew on offense with 33 rushes for 287 yards and a touchdown.
Delta took the opening kickoff and moved the ball from its own 35-yard line to Cortez's 13 before settling for a 30-yard field goal off the foot of sophomore Felipe Bedoy. The drive used 13 plays and five minutes and 25 seconds to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
A 10-play drive, featuring six passing attempts, ended with the visiting Panthers losing the ball on downs on a sack by Delta defensive end Jacob Wear.
The Panthers took over on their own 41-yard line with Starr doing all the work on three carries to get Delta into the end zone. Starr's 45-yard touchdown jaunt came after a penalty on the Panthers set the ball back to Cortez's 45. Ku Moo's PAT kick was blocked and left the Panthers on top, 9-0, with 1:36 left in the first quarter.
Delta used its time outs and played stout defense to stymie Cortez's offense late in the first period. The Panthers had three plays in the last seconds of the period and were moving the ball smartly down the field early in the second quarter. Delta quarterback Drake Horn forced a throw into Cortez's secondary where it was picked off by Cortez linebacker Jacob Schuster.
Delta held Cortez on three straight plays without a gain and got the ball back on a punt at Delta's 23-yard line.
Delta ran six plays before being forced to punt the ball away. During the punt, Cortez roughed the kicker (Horn) with the resulting penalty yardage giving Delta a first down to extend the drive. Five plays later, Horn fumbled the ball back to Cortez at the Cortez five-yard line.
With the help of a 32-yard pass completion from Cortez quarterback Ike Dennison to Tyler Wilson, and a Delta holding penalty, Cortez moved the ball to its own 47. Delta's Tanner Webster intercepted a Dennison pass to stop the Cortez march to paydirt. Webster's interception was wiped out on an interference penalty on Delta and Cortez continued its drive down to Delta's 37 where it lost the ball on downs.
Delta's drive included a 23-yard run by Starr and an 18-yard pass from Horn to Skylar Kraai helped the host Panthers move the ball to Cortez's 20. Cortez's Cole Herrmann intercepted Horn to end the threat and leave the score 9-0 at halftime.
Cortez received the ball to begin second-half play and lost it on downs at its own 40-yard line.
Starr picked up 34 yards on the drive with Kole Granger catching a Horn pass for 12 yards.Horn carried the ball for the final two yards and a score with 7:02 left in the third period. Freshman Nolan Bynum booted the extra point for a 16-0 Delta lead.
Following the ensuing kickoff, Cortez had the ball for three plays when a fumble by Dennison (recovered by Jacob Wear) gave the ball back to Delta at the Cortez 25-yard line.
A 13-yard run by Starr moved the ball to the 12 and Granger took a Horn pass to the seven. On the next play, Horn lost a yard leaving the ball on the eight-yard line. On the next play Horn found Gage Lockhart all alone in the end zone for an eight-yard scoring strike. Ku Moo's kick made the score 23-0 with 4:35 left in the third quarter.
Cortez had the last possession in the third quarter with a drive that began on its own 30. The quarter ended eight plays later, with three penalties on Delta for 20 yards, and the ball resting on Delta's one-yard line.
Delta held Cortez on the next three plays setting up a one-yard plunge by Dennison for the lone Cortez score in the game. With the PAT kick, Cortez trailed 23-7 with 11:21 left to play in the game.
Delta lost the ball on downs in its next possession with Cortez taking over on its own nine-yard line.
Delta thought it had gotten the ball back on a Colton Galvin interception but a roughing the passer penalty extended Cortez's drive eight more plays where the Panthers lost the ball on downs.
The game ended with Delta possessing the ball at its own 32.
Delta ran the ball 45 times for 332 yards and pulled down eight passes for 82 yards to finish the game with 414 yards of total offense. Cortez ran the ball 14 times for nine yards with 254 yards coming on 19 of 39 passes for a total of 263 yards.
Receiving leaders for Delta included Kraai with 40 yards, Granger with 24 and Lockhart with 18.
Ty Wilson had 88 yards on three receptions to pace Cortez's offense.
Delta is at Bayfield on Friday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. The Panthers, in a must-win situation, must win in Bayfield and defeat Gunnison, at home, next week to make the playoffs.