Delta High School's first semifinal football game since 1996 ended in a loss to the defending 3A state champion Silver Creek Raptors. The game was rugged with tremendous defensive play from both teams.
In the end, it was Silver Creek who had the edge with two second-half touchdowns to secure a 28-17 victory.
The Panthers were in the game from the start and at the end. What many fans saw was a see-saw battle with two excellent teams playing at their best in a football game for a berth in the state 3A football championship.
Heavy snow was removed from the field prior to the first kickoff, leaving the players a surface that was in good shape. As the game progressed, the middle portions of the field were churned into a muddy alleyway for approximately 30-plus yards.
Even though the running games
were greatly affected for both teams, Delta's passing game came to life with junior quarterback Cade Gafford throwing the ball 35 times with 22 completions and two touchdowns. In all, Gafford threw for a season-best 368 yards with a 16.7 yards-per-catch statistic for the game. Gafford's longest pass completion on Saturday was a 70-yard bomb to senior Devin Williams for a touchdown. Another long throw went to senior Ryan Whiteside, covering 56 yards.
Gafford's previous best-passing day came on Oct. 25 against Rifle where he threw for 316 yards.
Williams finished the game with 102 yards on four catches while
Whiteside (who drew double-coverage for much of the game) and Gafford connected on 12 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown.
Whiteside's touchdown came in the second half on a deflected pass intended for senior Tyler Sandoval on a crossing pattern. Whiteside was nearly seven yards from Sandoval when the ball was deflected and he managed to collect the carrom three feet off the ground.
Sandoval caught three passes for 37 yards while junior Eian Baier also had three catches for 22 yards.
Silver Creek's Ben Sjobakken went 15 for 24 and 175 yards and a touchdown. Sjobakken spread the wealth around to several receivers, with Anthony Kasper collecting 48 yards on three catches. Brock Ricks had 42 yards on three catches and Eric Machmuller and Zane Lindsey posted 40 yards with four catches each.
The Raptors' running game was slightly better than Delta's, with Lindsey running for 72 yards on 14 carries with the team gaining 109 yards on 27 rushes.
Delta sophomore running back Jonny Ponce was not a force in this game as the Raptors had the Panthers' running game well-scouted. Ponce had 15 carries but only 34 yards, with his longest run netting 7 yards.
The Panthers finished with just 35 yards on the ground and 403 total yards for the game.
Silver Creek started the scoring in Saturday's game after intercepting a Gafford pass early in the first period. Sjobakken threw a scoring strike to Lindsey for a 25-yard touchdown that led to a 7-0 lead after a Ryan Charles extra point kick.
Freshman Abraham Ontiveros contributed five points to the Panthers' cause on Saturday. Ontiveros had the extra point following Williams' score and then booted a 32-yard field goal to give Delta a 10-7 lead in the second quarter of play.
The Raptors put together a 61-yard scoring drive in the final two minutes of the first half. The drive ended with Josh Quiroz scoring on a 1-yard plunge. Charles' kick gave Silver Creek a 14-10 halftime lead.
Delta opened the second half with an 80-yard drive that ended with the 13-yard deflected pass to Whiteside giving the Panthers a 17-14 lead.
Delta was driving on its next possession when disaster struck. A completed pass was ripped from the arms of the Delta receiver and tumbled into the hands of linebacker Dakota Silva at the Panthers' 26-yard line. Silva returned the ball to Delta's 13 to set up Kasper's 13-yard run to the end zone on the next play. Charles' kick gave the Raptors a 21-17 lead.
Delta failed to move the ball on its next possession and had to punt the ball back to Silver Creek. A 71-yard drive, with Sjobakken's passing leading the way, scored on an 8-yard pass from Sjobakken to Lindsey that produced an 11-point lead at 28-17.
Delta's final drive of the day resulted in an interception to end the threat deep in Raptor territory.
Delta finished its season at 9-4 to finish in the top five in Class 3A rankings.
Gafford, unofficially, finished third in passing with 156 completions in 266 attempts for 2290 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2013.
Whiteside moved into first place in Class 3A, receiving statistics with 76 receptions for 1213 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Ponce's 234 rushes for 1702 yards and 16 touchdowns topped 3A statistics for rushing leaders. He was second in scoring to Lutheran's Jamil Bond (165 points) with 147 points.
The turnovers made a difference. "Turnovers are key in games like this. The one deep in our end that gave them the lead (before halftime) gave them momentum," noted Delta coach Ben Johnson.
Johnson also noted that this was Silver Creek's third trip to the playoffs and the title game. "They've got the experience in big games. We would score and they would answer. They made plays when they needed to."
Our kids played dynamite but came up just a little short today," quoted Johnson.
Whiteside made a spectacular catch where he laid out parallel to the ground to keep a drive going late in the game. When asked about how he made the play, Whiteside was humble with his answer. "I don't know. I try not to think too much while I'm out there and just make the play."
Johnson will coach 16 returning lettermen next season, making it possible to be contenders again.
Silver Creek (ninth seed) moves on, at 10-2, to face number six Coronado (11-1), a 28-27 winner over The Classical Academy, in the championship game. The Raptors may be the odds-on favorite as they will host the title game.blog comments powered by Disqus