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Palisade sneaks past Panthers

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Photo by Wayne Crick Delta senior Brendon Starr (2) bolts through the offensive line on his way to a big gain against Palisade last Friday night in Delta. Starr ran for 245 yards on 23 carries in a 36-33 loss to the Bulldogs.

Delta and Palisade renewed a long-time gridiron rivalry last Friday night in Delta. A warm, partly cloudy evening with a few sprinkles, did not deter fans from enjoying a hard-fought prep football game. Palisade was stunned early in the contest by a determined and physical Delta football team that dominated the 3A Bulldogs in first quarter action.

The Panthers, hoping to rebound from last week's loss to league opponent Basalt, had all the right answers on the first possession of the game.

A 23-yard scamper by Delta senior Brendon Starr moved the ball to the Panthers' 49-yard line on the first play. An 18-yard keeper by senior quarterback Drake Horn was good for 18 yards and Delta used the running of Starr to cover the final 30 yards of the drive on four plays, the final touch for Starr coming at the three-yard line. The drive took eight plays and used up a little over three minutes. The try for extra point failed leaving Delta ahead 6-0 with 8:57 left in the opening period.

Palisade moved the ball just eight yards before kicking the ball away on its first possession of the game.

The Panthers wasted little time finding the end zone on their next possession. Starting at their own 20-yard line, the Panthers began the drive with an incomplete pass. Starr took the ball on the next play and ripped off 40 yards to the Bulldog's 40 and a first down.

Starr ran for nine yards on the next play and lost two on the fourth play of the drive placing the ball at Palisade's 33-yard line. On Delta's third pass play of the game, Horn found senior Kole Granger alone in the middle of the field and delivered a throw for a play that ended in the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion try failed leaving Delta ahead 12-0 with 5:35 left in the first quarter.

Penalties played a role in Palisade and Delta's next possessions, which ended in punts.

Palisade had the ball as the first quarter ended with Jason Bruce advancing the ball to the Bulldogs' 37 going into the second quarter.

The Bulldogs fumbled the ball away on their second play of the second quarter with Delta taking over on Palisade's 42-yard line.

On Delta's first play, junior Clayton Abila, running a halfback option, threw the ball to senior Colton Galvin for a 20-yard gain down to the Bulldogs' 22. After a pair of runs by Starr and an incomplete pass intended for Grangeri, Horn found Skylar Kraai for a nine-yard gain down to Palisade's 10-yard line. Starr picked up his second touchdown of the game on a 10-yard run to finish off a 58-yard drive on the fifth play. Freshman Nolan Bynum booted the extra point giving Delta a 19-0 lead with 10 minutes left before halftime.

Palisade went to work from that point on and began a dominating series of possessions resulting in 20 unanswered points for a 20-19 lead.

Terrance Williams, a senior 202-pound fullback, ran the ball four times for 32 yards and sophomore quarterback Cameron Tucker spiraled a 41-yard catch and run strike to running back Austin Bernal for the Bulldogs' first score of the game with 6:55 left in first half play. A Tucker to Jason Bruce pass on the two-point conversion try made the score 19-8.

Delta's next possession ended after four plays and the Bulldogs took over on their own 20-yard line.

Palisade used passes to Bruce for 12 and 18-yard pickups to move the ball to Delta's 44. From there, Williams pounded his way 44 yards to paydirt to cap an 80-yard drive in five plays. The PAT failed leaving the score 19-14 in favor of the Panthers with 2:57 left in the first half.

Delta's offense sputtered on its next possession and the Panthers had to punt the ball back to an energized Bulldogs' squad.

Palisade engineered an eight play, 54-yard scoring drive which culminated with a 13-yard pass from Tucker to junior Jarett Brown in the end zone. The final play of the drive began with just 0:06 left on the clock. A missed two-point conversion gave Palisade a 20-19 lead at the break.

The Bulldogs got the ball to begin the second half with a nine-play possession that ended with a loss of possession on downs.

Delta took advantage of the situation taking over on its own 35. Starr ran for 11 yards and a pass to Granger for nine yards had the ball resting on Palisade's 45-yard line. A 45-yard jaunt by Starr put the Panthers on top at 25-20. Cameron Schaal gathered in a two-point conversion pass to give Delta a 27-20 lead with 5:44 left in the third quarter.

Palisade had the ball as the third quarter ended. Using the power running of Williams (five runs) Palisade got a 25-yard run from the big running back in the fourth quarter to cap a 52-yard scoring drive which used seven plays. Williams also powered his way into the end zone for the two-point conversion to make the score 28-27 with 10:34 left in the game.

Not to be outdone, Delta came right back to take a 33-28 lead on a seven play, 63-yard drive with 7:33 left to play. The extra point failed highlighting the third time extra point opportunities were unsuccessful.

Delta's five-point lead was not enough with the Bulldogs grinding out a 17-play drive to eat up all but 23.5 seconds of the game clock. Bernal capped the time-consuming drive with a two-yard run and Sebo Campbell caught a two-point conversion pass from Tucker to make the final score 36-33.

Highlighting Delta's evening was the 245 yards rushing from Starr on 23 carries.

Horn was nine of 18 for 126 yards through the air with Granger hauling in two passes for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Williams paced the Bulldogs' offense with 151 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns. Bernal had two touchdowns and Tucker ran for 79 yards on 21 carries.

Delta coach Ben Johnson had praise for Palisade's play in the game. Even though the loss wasn't easy, Johnson gave credit where it was due. "They had some nice plays and then started throwing the ball. We couldn't get stops when we needed them."

There were bright spots for the Panthers as well. "Our effort was tremendous. We played hard and this was the best our offense played all year."

The season doesn't get much easier with competitive opponents lined up the rest of the way. Next week's opponent, Pagosa Springs, comes to Delta for Delta's 2017 Homecoming with a 2-2 record in 2A Intermountain league standings. Bayfield, another league foe, is first in the standings with a 4-0 record. Alamosa is second in league standings at 3-1 and Cortez is 1-2. Gunnison is in the cellar with its 0-4 record.

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