It was not to be for the Delta Panthers. A tough Pueblo East squad survived an early scare in the opening moments of the first quarter to score a 35-24 win in the state 3A football quarterfinals in Delta Saturday afternoon (Nov. 17).
Delta, the number 13 seed in this year's state tournament had number five Pueblo East on the ropes early with an interception that gave the Panthers a first and 10 at the Eagle's 19 yard line.
A tipped ball by Delta's secondary eventually fell into the hands of Hunter Brasfield that set up the Panther's first opportunity with the ball.
Delta squandered the scoring opportunity after a couple of losses and a fumble that gave the ball back to Pueblo East at its own six-yard line.
The Panthers did manage to get on the scoreboard first after the Eagles went three and out on their next series and had to punt the ball from their four-yard line.
Delta took the punt back to the Eagles' 15 to begin its scoring drive. After stalling at the seven-yard line, Alex Quintero booted a 17-yard field goal with 4:34 left in the opening quarter to give Delta a 3-0 lead.
The Eagles found the right formula for their offense with their next possession and used the arm of junior quarterback Kurt Rode to end an 83-yard drive with a scoring strike to Alex Mestas that covered 62 yards. With the extra point kick, Pueblo East took a 7-3 lead with 2:35 left in the first period.
On Delta's next possession, Mitch Whiteside's first pass of the drive was intercepted by junior Joe DeTello that set up the Eagle's next scoring drive from the Delta 20-yard line. A 16-yard pass to Jimmy Valdez and a four-yard touchdown run by Derion Ibarra boosted Pueblo East's lead to 14-3 with the PAT conversion with 1:53 left in the quarter.
Delta was moving the ball as the first quarter ended. The Panthers had the ball at Pueblo East's 45 following an offside penalty but were forced to punt after two straight incomplete passes.
The Eagles took advantage of Delta's sluggish offense and used more than half of the second quarter's time to move the ball 72 yards on 17 plays for their third score. Two passes to Valdez for 14 and 17 yards aided the Eagles' drive with Ibarra scooting the final six yards to paydirt with 5:08 left before halftime. The PAT made it 21-3 for Pueblo East.
Delta started its next possession at its own 46 and used just two plays to find the end zone. A nine-yard pass to Ryan Whiteside left the ball at the Eagle's 45. From there, Mitch Whiteside kept the ball on an option play and sprinted down the right sideline for 45 yards and six points. Quintero kicked the extra point to make the score 21-10 with 4:17 left in the first half.
Pueblo East opened its next series with a 23-yard pass to Valdez to the Panthers' 47. Four straight rushes moved the ball to the 37 before Rode put the ball in the air again. He hit DeTello and Felix Mestas for 12-yard receptions and then found Alex Mestas in the end zone for the final 13 yards. With the extra point, Pueblo East had control of the game with a 28-10 halftime lead.
Each team had just two possessions in the third quarter. Delta started with the ball and seemed destined to score after moving the ball from its own 20 to the Eagles' 17. Two incomplete passes and a seven-yard loss on a quarterback sack took the ball back to the 24. The Panthers' next play netted zero yards and Delta lost the ball on downs.
Pueblo East had the ball for its second possession of the third period as time ran out with the score holding at 28-10.
In the fourth quarter, the Eagles used the passing game to once again keep the game momentum on their side. A 12-yard pass to Felix Mestas moved the ball to the Delta 10. Valdez was on the receiving end of a Rode pass for the final 10 yards with 11:38 left in the game. The PAT made the score 35-10.
Mitch Whiteside's athleticism helped Delta to the end zone for its next two scores. The first scoring drive took nine plays, including six passes from Whiteside. Chris Black was on the receiving end of four of those passes. The first two to Black were for 12 yards each and the third was good for 26 yards. Black's fourth pass of the posses sion was for nine yards and a touchdown with 8:34 left in the game. The Quintero PAT made it 35-17.
Doug Hawkins hauled in a 23-yarder from Whiteside for a crucial first down during the drive.
The Eagles used 14 plays to move the ball from their own 48 to the Delta 18 on their next possesson. A 31-yard field goal attempt failed, to leave the score at 35-17 late in the quarter.
Delta got one last chance to score beginning from its 20-yard line. An 11-yard reception by Hawkins started the drive. An interception by Pueblo East was nullified on an illegal substitution foul by the Eagles to give Delta renewed hope.
A second-down pass to Black down the left sideline covered 44 yards to move the ball deep into Pueblo East territory at the 21. An eight-yard pass to Black set the ball at the 13. And, for the final Panthers score in 2012, the Whiteside brothers connected on a 13-yard route for the score with 4.5 seconds left in the game. Quintero kicked the extra point for the game's final score of 35-24. Delta's last drive covered 80 yards and took six plays.
Delta tried an onside kick that was unsuccessful, to end the game.
Despite the seemingly one-sided score for most of the game, this contest was far from a statistical domination for either team. Unofficially, the Eagles rushed for 114 yards and had 240 yards through the air for a total of 354 yards. Delta ran for 109 yards and collected 264 yards through the airways for 373 total yards.
Whiteside was 16 of 28 for 264 yards and two touchdowns while Pueblo East's Rode completed 15 passes in 24 attempts for 240 yards and three touchdowns. Each quarterback was intercepted once.
Alex Mestas led the Pueblo receiving corps with 98 yards on four receptions and two touchdowns while Valdez had six catches for 89 yards and one touchdown.
Delta's Black hauled in eight aerials for 147 yards and one touchdown while Ryan Whiteside caught four passes for 64 yards and one touchdown. Hawkins had one of his most productive days with four catches and 53 yards.
On the ground, the Eagles' Ibarra rushed 31 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns to lead Pueblo East's ground game. Mitch Whiteside had 89 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown for the Panthers.
Asked about the 2012 season for the Panthers, coach Ben Johnson praised the seniors for their play. "Our seniors played good. Our seniors led our team in all phases. They were good in the weight room to lead our younger kids."
The Panthers completed their 2012 season with an 8-4 record overall and placed second in the tough 3A WSL. Only Rifle remains in the hunt for a title from the 3A WSL as Palisade lost its first-round game and Eagle Valley bowed out of contention with a narrow 16-10 loss to Conifer this past weekend.
This week's semifinal round in 3A action finds Rifle (#1), a 48-34 winner over Roosevelt, and Pueblo East (#5) squaring off in Pueblo this Saturday. Silver Creek (#10), a 27-12 winner over Pueblo Central, and Conifer (#6) will face each other in Conifer on Saturday as well. Game times are tentatively set for 1 p.m.
Delta is looking ahead to next season and anticipating another outstanding season with a core of returning players and a good crop of sophomores emerging to mix in with the veteran players. "We have a good group of sophomores and a good freshman class coming in next year," stated assistant coach Paul Shean. The outlook is good for Delta football for a few years to come.blog comments powered by Disqus