BY DAVID PEDERSEN
Given the circumstances, it would not have been unexpected had Delano been blown out by Waconia in football last Friday. Heads turned with the news the Tigers emerged with a convincing 28-9 victory.
Delano played short-handed on Friday after nine players, six who started games, were suspended for two games for violating Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) conduct rules.
“I felt the entire team came together and responded to adversity,” said coach Merrill Pavlovich. “The older and experienced players supported the replacements. Our strength going into the season was depth and it proved to be valuable on Friday.”
Several players had to work on both offense and defense, including Zach Checkal, Ben Ditty, Andy Rieder, Christian Triplett, Adam Kraft, Aaron Klaers and Dalton Danielson.
Pavlovich adds how special teams were impacted and the entire team played an important role in the preparation and the win.
Ditty had a major impact when he intercepted three passes, rushed for 44 yards on 11 carries, made seven tackles and “did a great job blocking.” Tom Ditty is Ben’s uncle who played at quarterback for a standout Delano team in the 1960’s.
Checkal led the defense with 10 tackles, six solo. Rieder and Klaers each had eight tackles and Dennis Troussov added six. Kraft also had an interception.
Checkal was the workhorse on offense for the third straight game. The senior ran the ball 19 times for 116 yards and had touchdown runs of 9, 1 and 3 yards. He also caught three passes for 37 yards and kicked four extra points.
Kraft scored the other touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Danielson. Kraft caught two passes for 54 yards. Brett Norling gained 68 yards on three rush attempts.
Pavlovich said Danielson played very well at quarterback despite having very little experience at the position. He completed 5 of 8 passes for 91 yards and one touchdown.
“Arick Neisen played very well at center and did an excellent job kicking off,” adds the coach. “Wyatt Russek, Austin Wallace, Oliver Reitan, Ben Stoddard and Ben Jacobs provided key blocks for the running backs. Triplett was outstanding at tight end and defensive tackle. Justin Oja, Brett Norling, Aaron Barduson and Nate Meyers were impressive in their first game as starters.”
The Tigers held the edge in offense against Waconia at 345 to 251 yards.
Delano starts a string of three straight home games, 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21 against Mound-Westonka, Friday, Sept. 28, against Orono and Friday, Oct. 5, against Hutchinson.