Key defensive plays lead Delano to section football title game

BY DAVID PEDERSEN

Delano’s defense came to the rescue in two section football playoff victories last week to send the Tigers into the title game at Becker, 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2.

The Tigers opened the Class 4A, Section 5 tournament with a narrow 14-7 victory over winless Mound-Westonka. Two interceptions by Adam Kraft and one by Dennis Troussov proved to be deciding plays.

Zach Checkal defends against a pass during the playoff victory against Orono Saturday. (Photo by Bill Nord)

Zach Checkal defends against a pass during the playoff victory against Orono Saturday. (Photo by Bill Nord)

In the section semifinals against Orono Saturday, the Tiger defense stepped up again with key plays. Kraft and Ben Ditty intercepted passes, while Andy Rieder and Zach Checkal recovered fumbles to slow down Orono.

Aaron Klaers and Ditty forced fumbles. Coach Merrill Pavlovich said defensive back Brett Norling did an excellent job covering Orono’s best receiver. Dalton Danielson is back from a knee injury and had a strong game at defensive end, notes the coach.

“Offensively, we capitalized on their turnovers and either scored or established field position,” said Pavlovich. “Poor field position led to Orono’s first score. Otherwise, our defense stepped up and made big plays.”

Rieder led with 11 tackles, while Checkal had nine and seven coming from Ditty, Sawyer Thommes and Troussov.

Ben Ditty returns an intercepted pass for Delano against Orono in the section semifinal victory. (Photo by Bill Nord)

Ben Ditty returns an intercepted pass for Delano against Orono in the section semifinal victory. (Photo by Bill Nord)

Because both Rieder and Ditty are slowed by some injuries, they concentrated on defense against Orono. Aaron Wagner started his first game at fullback and rushed for about 61 yards on 15 carries.

“We lost Wyatt Russek to a leg injury early in the game and Oliver Reitan moved from tackle to guard and did an outstanding job,” said Pavlovich about the offensive lineman.

Quarterback Toby Hanson ran the offensive attack. Hanson rushed the ball 12 times for 51 yards. Checkal carried seven times for 50 yards and Jack Nelson gained 47 yards on 12 attempts.

Hanson was 3 for 6 passing for 68 yards. Christian Triplett caught two passes for 59 yards, both going for touchdowns. One went for 42 yards and the other for 17.

“Halftime adjustments in the offensive line and alignments allowed the backs additional running room,” notes Pavlovich. “Damon Longstreet was effective in opening holes up the middle and on the edge.”

Hanson scored on a 4-yard run in the first quarter. Orono tied the game at the half on a 20-yard pass. Delano scored the next three touchdowns. Following two TD passes to Triplett, Checkal scored on a 2-yard run to up the score to 26-7.

Against Mound-Westonka, Pavlovich said Delano was not consistent in its play and the defense was on the field far too many plays.

Nelson rushed the ball 23 times for 98 yards. Checkal rushed nine times for 43 yards and Hanson gained 53 yards on nine carries.

Hanson completed 5 of 11 passes for 92 yards. Kraft caught three passes for 66 yards and one touchdown from 35 yards. Nelson scored on a 10-yard run.

Triplett led with 12 tackles, nine solo. Thommes had seven tackles, while Klaers, Wagner and Rieder each had six tackles.

“Players have made adjustments to new positions and it is difficult to play teams twice in the same season,” said Pavlovich about having to defeating Orono for a second time this fall. “Our kids did a great job preparing and making game adjustments against Orono.

Pavlovich said the team is looking forward to playing Becker in the title game, adding, losing Russek affects our depth, but we are confident that someone will step up.”

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