BY DAVID PEDERSEN
When football players who have been big factors in a team’s success are not at full strength or not in the lineup, it becomes a big factor.
The scenario played out for Delano in a 21-14 loss to Holy Family Catholic in the last regular season game last Wednesday. Three team leaders were impacted by injuries, which impacted the game plan.
The loss moved the Tigers from a potential No. 1 or 2 seed and first round bye in the Class 4A, Section 5 tournament to the No. 3 seed. Delano (5-3) played Mound-Westonka (0-8) Tuesday after this issue went to press.
The winner plays at No. 2 seed Orono (5-3), 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 27. The championship game is 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2 where top seed Becker is the likely opponent.
When the Tigers got off to a strong start this season, so went senior Zach Checkal, contributing on several fronts. The workhorse rushed the ball about 20 times a game and averaged seven pass receptions. Plus, he was a tackle leader on defense, kicked extra points and was the punter.
A deep thigh bruise has limited what Checkal can do in recent weeks. Coach Merrill Pavlovich primarily used Checkal on defense against Holy Angels where he was second with 11 tackles. The coach adds how Checkal’s blocking for others was a factor this season.
Senior Dalton Danielson injured a knee against Holy Angels. He is a defensive end and backup quarterback. Senior lineman Aaron Klaers played but is slowed by a neck injury.
With fewer options on offense, the bulk of the rushes were given to Jack Nelson, who carried 17 times for 176 yards and a touchdown. Ben Ditty carried the ball seven times for 24 yards and quarterback Toby Hanson gained 18 yards on eight carries.
Arick Neisen did the place kicking in place of Checkal and Christian Triplett took over the punting, averaging about 50 yards.
Triplett also led the charge on defense with 14 tackles, eight solo. Damon Longstreet had 8, while Adam Kraft and Andy Rieder each had seven tackles.
Hanson completed 3 of 13 pass attempts for 35 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Triplett caught a pass for 20 yards, Kraft caught one for 10 and Checkal had one reception for 5 yards.
Holy Family had the edge in total yardage, out-gaining Delano 360 to 261. Pavlovich said it hurt when a deflected pass was intercepted deep in Holy Family territory after a long Tiger drive early in the game.
“They wore us out,” said Pavlovich about Holy Family, which improved to 5-3. “We had twice as many defensive plays. We also had 45 yards in penalties, including two facemask calls.”
Earlier in the season Delano edged Orono by one point.