The Jonny Ponce show was a big hit last week when Palisade's Bulldogs visited Panther Stadium for a battle for the 3A WSL championship. Ponce ran for 246 yards and a couple of touchdowns, enabling Delta's Panthers to score a 27-21 decision over the Bulldogs. The win marks the first time in more than a decade Delta has claimed a league title in football outright. The past several seasons Delta has been a part of sharing the league title with either Palisade or Rifle or both.
Ponce's rushing totals have reached, or gone over, the 240 mark twice this season. He gained 240 yards against Glenwood Springs and his 246 marked his best effort this season. Last year Ponce had three games in which he surpassed the 240 mark; 288 against The Classical Academy, 250 against Steamboat Springs and 242 in a playoff game against Conifer.
Delta finished the season 7-0 in a tough 3A WSL and was 9-1 overall. The 9-1 record, and wild card points, earned the Panthers a number three seed, and the right to host a first-round game in this year's 3A State Football Championships.
The Panthers will host number 14 Harrison (7-3) in a 1 p.m. contest Saturday at Panther Stadium.
Number nine Rifle (9-1) travels to number eight Discovery Canyon (6-4). Palisade, number five (8-2), will host 12th-seeded D'Evelyn (7-3), and Eagle Valley, 15th-seeded (7-3), will travel to number two Roosevelt (9-1) for its first-round playoff games.
Delta 27, Palisade 21
The Panthers had the ball to begin last Friday's title game with Palisade. A steady diet of Ponce in the opening drive provided the Panthers with 37 of the drives' 68 yards. A 24-yard pass from Kole Roberts to Kory Mills provided another big chunk of yardage to set up Roberts' 5-yard run for six points. A.B. Ontiveros kicked the extra point and Delta led 7-0 with 6:51 left in the first period.
Palisade scored the game's second touchdown on an Isaac Maestas 5-yard run. Maestas kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:57 left before halftime.
Delta's next possession produced a fumble that set the Bulldogs up with their next possession at Delta's 14-yard line. Palisade took a 14-7 lead following a 4-yard run by quarterback P.D. Riddle. Maestas' kick lifted the Bulldogs to a 14-7 halftime lead.
Ponce's rushing efforts accounted for 106 yards in the first period and another 43 in the second quarter for the Panthers.
The Bulldogs weren't able to produce a score on their first possession following halftime and turned the ball over on downs at Delta's 19-yard line. Thirteen plays, and 81 yards later, Ponce motored 21 yards for the first of his two touchdown runs. Ontiveros' kick tied the game at 14-14 with 2:21 left in the third quarter.
Palisade's next possession was rare in that the Bulldogs had to punt after three plays. The Panthers took possession on their own 46 with Ponce pounding his way for 10 yards to end the third quarter with the game tied at 14-14.
A penalty against Palisade spotted the ball on the Bulldogs' 29. Ponce had runs of 11 and 7 yards to reach the 11-yard line to set up his 11-yard scoring run with 10:49 left in the game. Ontiveros made it 21-14 with his PAT kick.
Palisade was stymied once again by Delta's defense and after four plays punted the ball back to the Panthers.
Delta had a four-down possession and kicked the ball right back to the Bulldogs where they started their next drive on their own 39.
Palisade put together a 61-yard scoring drive that culminated with Tanner Pratt's 4-yard run with 2:34 left in the game. Maestas' kick tied the game at 21-21.
With its next possession beginning on its own 36, Delta was feeding the Bulldogs another steady diet of Ponce when a personal foul on the Bulldogs moved the ball to Palisade's 23. Ponce exploded off the right side for 21 yards to the 2-yard line before finally being stopped. Tristan Brown gave Ponce a rest on the next play and toted the ball the final 2 yards for the winning score, 27-21.
Ponce's run to the 2 was epic in that the Bulldogs had players hitting him for most of the 21 yards. When asked what he was thinking during that run, Ponce replied, "I was thinking this is for a league title."
Ponce's 246 yards led all rushers in the game. Pratt finished with 69 yards to lead Palisade's running game.
Defensively Brown was involved in 13 tackles for the Panthers with Mills collecting 11 stops and Sam Komives another 10.