BY DAVID PEDERSEN
Delano had some big plays on offense, but it was the tackle by Ben Ditty that secured the 28-27 victory over Dassel-Cokato Friday to open the football season on a positive note.
Coach Merrill Pavlovich found many other positives in the typical hard-found Wright County Conference battle, calling it “an outstanding team effort.”
The defensive play of the game came when DC was going for the win on a 2-point conversion when Ditty tackled the halfback 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Quarterback Toby Hanson tied the game at 7 on a 5-yard run. Adam Kraft’s 70-yard punt return gave the Tigers back the lead. Dassel-Cokato closed the gap to 14-13 on a 30-yard run. Zach Checkal and Andy Rieder both scored on 5-yard runs. DC added scoring runs of six and one yards, but failed on the final conversion.
“Kraft’s punt returns gave Delano good field position in the second half,” said Pavlovich. “Rieder at fullback gave us key runs in the third and fourth quarters.”
Rieder rushed the ball eight times for 70 yards. Checkal rushed six times for 53 yards, Hanson was 10 for 48 and Jake Nelson gained 28 yards on six carries.
Hanson completed 4 of 15 passes for 84 yards. Checkal caught three passes for 69 yards and Kraft one for 15. Checkal averaged 38.5 yards on six punts.
Checkal led the charge on defense with 10 tackles, six assists, one interception and one fumble recovery. Pavlovich adds how, “Checkal was a key factor. He does so many things for our team and he had an outstanding performance.”
Ditty had five solo tackles and six assists. Kraft had five tackles with three assists and one interception. Nate Meyers had two tackles, two assists and a fumble recovery. Aaron Klaers and Seth Norling both added four solo tackles.
Christian Triplett contributed five assisted tackles to go with two solo. Dalton Danielson had three solo and three assisted tackles. Justin Oja had four tackles and three assists at safety.
Several starters played very little in the second half due to cramping, resulting in several players making key contributions.
Pavlovich pointed out the play of Aaron Wagner at defensive end, Meyers at linebacker, Hunter Hart at both offensive and defensive end and Ben Jacobs at guard.
“Penalties hurt our team in the first half and we had a key turnover deep in our territory that led to DC’s first touchdown,” notes the coach.
Delano next plays at Annandale, 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7 and at Waconia Sept. 14 before coming home for three straight home games.