BY DAVID PEDERSEN
Delano football has had a year of adjusting and adapting to injuries and suspensions. The good news is others have stepped up to make a difference.
A good example happened last Friday when the Tigers turned a 14-13 narrow halftime lead over Litchfield into a 41-13 romp, improving to 5-2 with one regular season game to play.
If Delano defeated Holy Family Catholic Wednesday, after this issue went to press, The Tigers would secure the No. 2 section tournament seed with an outside chance of being No. 1.
Senior Zach Checkal has been a workhorse on offense this season, but has been troubled with a deep thigh bruise for the past three games.
With Checkal getting limited carries, junior Jack Nelson picked up the load and had an outstanding game against Litchfield. Nelson rushed the ball 25 times for 204 yards, an average of 8.2 yards. He added a 54-yard touchdown scamper.
When Nelson was sitting out a couple games, sophomore Brett Norling was given a chance to show what he could do and earned more playing time.
Friday he only had one carry but turned it into an 80-yard touchdown run. He caught two passes for 81 yards, including a 63-yard catch for a score. Coach Merrill Pavlovich said Norling has excellent hands and break-away speed.
Senior Aaron Klaers has been a top tackler and quarterback sack leading the past two seasons, but injured his shoulder in the loss to Hutchinson a week earlier. Pavlovich says he was released to play against Litchfield, but has limitations.
The defense had other players willing to fill the void. Junior Christian Triplett continues to be a force on defense, and along with senior Andy Rieder, have provided both run support and pressured the opposing quarterback.
Triplett and junior linebacker Sawyer Thommes led with seven tackles each. Rieder and senior Dalton Danielson had six tackles. Contributing five tackles each was Checkal, junior Adam Kraft and senior Dennis Troussov.
Delano’s defense came up with five interceptions, two by Troussov and one each by Checkal, Kraft and senior Ben Ditty, who Pavlovich says was a factor as a blocking back.
“Our kids prepared well for Litchfield,” notes Pavlovich. “Defensive pressure by our front four and linebackers gave the secondary opportunities to make the interceptions.”
Holes for the Tiger runners were also created by juniors Damon Longstreet and Wyatt Russek, plus seniors Arick Neisen and Austin Wallace.
“Toby Hanson had a breakout game,” noted Pavlovich about his junior quarterback. “He threw the ball very well and demonstrated a better command of the offense.”
Hanson completed 6 of 13 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed 11 times for 28 yards and scored on a 2-yard run.
Checkal was slowed but not stopped by his injury. He rushed the ball seven times for 23 yards and caught one pass good for an 80-yard touchdown play.
Kraft caught two passes for 53 yards, one catch resulting in a 30-yard touchdown. Ditty gained 21 yards on four carries.
The Tigers produced 569 yards of total offense against Litchfield, which was limited to 238 yards, 153 through the air.
Win or lose in the game Wednesday, Delano will play at home Tuesday, Oct. 23 unless it gets a first-round bye as the top seed. Other rounds are set Saturday, Oct. 27 and Friday, Nov. 2.