Delta's Panthers have made their way to this year's quarterfinal round of Class 3A prep football playoffs. Delta (#3) crushed number seven Harrison, 47-7, in opening-round play and will host The Classical Academy this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Panther Stadium.
Delta, 10-1, hosted third-seeded TCA earlier this season (first scheduled game) and claimed a hard-fought 38-35 decision. The Titans, 8-3 and number six-seeded, eased past 11th seed Mead, 48-38, to reach quarterfinal play last weekend.
Against Harrison's Panthers, Jonny Ponce paced a multi-faceted offense with 187 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns. Junior Kole Roberts used the airways to complete 10 of 16 passes for a touchdown and 211 yards. Tristan Brown added three touchdowns of his own in the big win. Delta finished the game with a combined 436 yards of offense.
On Delta's opening drive there were six running plays, all by Ponce, and two of three passing by Roberts to cover the 66 yards in the drive. Ponce started with a run of 10 yards and added runs of 17 and 4 before Roberts connected with Byers for a 22-yard gain to Harrison's 20-yard line. Ponce finished the drive on runs of 9, 3, and 8, giving Delta an early 6-0 lead with 8:33 left in the first quarter.
Harrison began its first drive at its own 20. On the first play, Sam Garcia found Isaiah Tivis all alone and completed a catch-and-run play good for 49 yards to Delta's 31-yard line. A bad snap to Garcia, who was in a shotgun formation, sailed over his head. The miscue resulted in a big loss all the way back to Harrison's 35.
An incomplete pass, followed by a running play for no gain, forced the visiting Panthers to punt the ball away.
Following the punt, Delta began its next drive on its own 49. With a steady diet of Ponce, the Panthers used six plays to go 51 yards, with Ponce slashing into the end zone from 9 yards out. A missed extra point left Delta ahead, 12-0.
Delta's kickoff, following its score, carromed out of bounds and provided Harrison with great field position when the ball was put in play at the Harrison 35-yard line.
The good fortune of excellent field position did not help Harrison, with the Panthers suffering an uninspiring effort to force a punt. The snap to the punter sailed over his head where he was swarmed under by Delta defenders at the Panthers' 39-yard line.
Delta's offense had a short-field advantage to begin its next possession and Ponce rumbled for 13 yards to start the drive. Another run by Ponce moved the ball to the 15. A Roberts-to-Byers pass was good to the 8-yard line and Ponce bruised his way for 6 yards to the 2 on the next play. Brown was wide open in the end zone for a 2-yard toss from Roberts to make the score 19-0 after Ontiveros' kick sailed through the uprights with 11:07 remaining in first-half play.
Harrison had one of its better possessions on its next series, moving the ball from its own 20 to Delta's 24 before losing the ball on downs.
Ponce began Delta's next possession with a 1-yard loss. On the next play Roberts found a winding pathway to the end zone for a 25-yard scamper with 5:48 left in second-period play. Ontiveros' kick made it 26-0.
Harrison began its series from its 19-yard line. The Panthers had some offensive success and moved the ball to their 49. Garcia was sacked for a 5-yard loss, forcing a punting situation. Delta senior Braden Atchley collected the Harrison punt and cut to the middle of the field in an effort to elude tacklers. Atchley seemed to jump into the air as contact was made and he landed awkwardly, breaking his left leg.
Delta started its next series from its own 29. A pass interference penalty against Harrison, along with a 27-yard scamper by Ponce, moved the ball to Harrison's 2-yard line. From the 2, it was Brown up the middle for the score with 2:21 left in the period. Ontiveros' kick made it 33-0.
A series of penalties hampered Harrison's offense to begin its next possession. After running just three plays, the Panthers were forced to punt the ball away.
Delta, looking to score 40 points to initiate a running clock, began from its own 19-yard line. A 26-yard pass play to tight end Kory Mills started the drive. Roberts found Ontiveros for another 41 yards on the next play to Harrison's 14.
The Panthers were flagged for yet another pass interference penalty that moved the ball to Delta's 7-yard line.
With just 8.1 seconds left in the second quarter, Harrison's Garcia stepped in front of Byers to pick off a pass from Roberts. Garcia gathered the pass in at Delta's 2-yard line and streaked down the right side line for a 98-yard scoring run. With the successful extra point kick the Panthers avoided a shutout with Delta leading 33-7 at halftime.
Harrison was first to be on offense in the second half.
The defense of Delta was not in a giving mood and completely stifled Harrison to force a punt.
Delta's offense struggled a bit during its first possession of the second half.
Needing a big play to keep its drive alive on a third-and-long from his own 38, Roberts found Brown on a crossing pattern and hit the tall receiver in the chest for a 62-yard pass play for a 40-7 score with 6:31 left in the third quarter.
Harrison had limited success on its next possession before senior Stephen Davignon wrecked its plans with a 13-yard sack of Garcia. Later in the same drive, as the Panthers were working their way out of a deep hole, Brown picked off a Garcia pass and returned it to Harrison's 15-yard line.
Ontiveros started Delta's next possession with an 11-yard run to the 4. From there a 4-yard run gave Ponce his third touchdown of the game and a 47-7 final score.