By Wayne Crick
For the second straight year Delta High School’s football team has reached the Final Four of the Class 2A state football playoffs. The Panthers, seeded No. 6, were in Kersey last Saturday, Nov. 21, where they played the No. 3 seeded Broncos for a semifinal berth in the 2020 Colorado State Football Championships and pulled off a 38-6 upset to advance to the semifinal round this week (time and date to be decided). The numbers were close in many statistical categories coming into Saturday’s contest. The weather couldn’t have been better for a football game with the only detrimental aspect of the game being a COVID-19 quarantine for a number of Platte Valley’s starting unit that undoubtedly had some influence on the game’s final score.
The Broncos major contributor on offense was senior quarterback Kaden McDaniel, who led the team in passing yards and rushing yards in 2020. McDaniel showcased his talent and speed throughout the game with long runs in crucial situations to keep drives going. McDaniel rushed (unofficially) for 147 yards on 27 carries. The rest of Platte Valley’s ground game came on seven carries that netted just 12 yards for a total of 159 yards rushing. Combined with the 129 yards put up by McDaniel on 15 of 37 passes, the Broncos finished the game with 288 total yards.
Delta countered with a powerful running game with the passing game adding key receptions to keep an offensive drive going on more than one occasion. Delta backup quarterback, junior Nathan Scharnhorst, was one of the catalysts in the game with both his running and throwing. Scharnhorst rushed for 79 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns in Delta’s ground game and added a touchdown on his six of 10 passing performance that accounted for another 144 yards of offense for the Panthers. Scharnhorst’s first touchdown came in the third quarter on a 1-yard plunge with his second trip to the end zone, an 11-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter on a play where he appeared to be stopped at the line of scrimmage.
Junior running back Timothy Horn was a thorn in the side of Platte Valley all afternoon with 18 rushes that covered 110 yards and two touchdowns. Horn’s TDs came in the second quarter (3-yard run) and the fourth quarter on a 13-yard scamper with 11:52 left in the game to make the score 31-6.
Neither team scored in the first quarter with the Panthers possessing the ball at the end of the period. The Panthers gained possession of the ball on senior James Goff’s interception of a McDaniel pass late in the quarter and sparked a fire in Delta’s intensity. Delta’s drive stalled in the first minute of the second quarter at the 15-yard line before junior Jaun Gaucin booted a 30-yard field goal to put the Panthers on the scoreboard first for a 3-0 lead.
The Panthers essentially broke the game open from that point on with touchdowns from senior Noah Nortnik on a 24-yard pass from Scharnhorst and Horn’s 3-yard run for a 17-0 lead after Gaucin’s two extra point kicks.
Platte Valley put together a 14-play drive that covered 73 yards near the end of the second quarter. McDaniel threw six passes in the drive and ran the ball six times, with his last rush coming from seven yards for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked to make the halftime score 17-6.
With Scharnhorst and Horn tacking on three more touchdowns in the second half, Delta’s defense was consistently forcing the Broncos to either punt the ball or turn the ball over on downs.
Delta’s defense was paced by 12 tackles each from seniors Hunter Goff and Colton Johnson with Scharnhorst and senior Colbi Braslin recording nine tackles each in the game. Senior James Goff finished the game with eight tackles.
The Panthers had three sacks in the game for a loss of 24 yards.
In a post game interview, Delta coach Ben Johnson spoke on his team’s play. “I thought the kids played hard and we controlled what we can control in this day and age. We need to stay healthy and away from quarantine as we move on. I thought Horn ran the ball really well and Scharny (Nathan Scharnhorst) threw the ball well today. Our receivers made some really nice catches with Nortnik having a good day. Our kids played a really nice game.”
Junior running back Timothy Horn had a big day for the Panthers with 110 yards rushing on 18 carries and two touchdowns. He was asked how he felt after the game. “It feels great. I was glad to give back to my team with the line doing all the work for me.”
Delta improved to 5-1 with its win over Platte Valley (5-2) and will face No. 7 Lamar (6-1), a 14-6 winner over No. 2 Sterling (5-1), on Saturday, Nov. 28, at 1 p.m.
No. 1 Resurrection Christian (6-0) takes on No. 5 Eaton (5-2) on Nov. 28 at 1 p.m. in Loveland in the second semifinal round contest. Resurrection Christian defeated No. 8 Moffat County 40-14 and Eaton knocked off No. 4 Pagosa Springs, 41-7 in first round play.