Tigers run out of key players and time in playoff loss
Becker edges Delano 20-13 in section football title game
BY DAVID PEDERSEN
A late rally fell short as Delano lost 20-13 to Becker in the Class 4A, Section 5 championship game last Friday to end the season at 7-4.
Delano was impacted by the loss of some key starters to injury during the game and others had been hobbled when playing three games within two weeks.
The Tigers opened the playoffs with a 14-7 victory over Mound-Westonka, followed by 26-13 triumph at Orono. Along the way the roster was being thinned out by injuries.
The situation got worse during the course of the Becker game when senior defensive back Dennis Troussov left the game with a thigh injury. Junior Adam Kraft broke his collar bone when grabbing a 12-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Toby Hanson in the fourth quarter.
The Tiger touchdown was the second of the quarter where a rally was in full force. Trailing 20-0 after three quarters, Delano scored on a 13-yard run by junior Jack Nelson.
Senior Zach Checkal recovered the onside kick. Delano did not jump on the next onside kick attempt, but the defense held and senior defensive end Dalton Danielson blocked a Becker punt. The Tigers took over on Becker’s 35 yard line with just over two minutes and no times out left.
A holding penalty and quarterback sack created a fourth and 35 yards to go for a first down. The hole was too big to dig out of and the comeback fell short.
“At this point in the season you can’t afford injuries,” said coach Merrill Pavlovich. “Besides losing key players like Kraft and Troussov, we lost lineman Wyatt Russek in the Orono game and Checkal was limping around out there. We wore ourselves thin.”
Pavlovich said the roster was smaller than normal to begin with, having just 10 seniors. He adds how Checkal had a great start to the season, averaging over a 125 yards rushing per game, plus standing out as a pass receiver, linebacker and kicker. A deep hip bruise halfway through the season limited his playing time, mainly focusing on defense.
Checkal did rush for 63 yards on 14 carries against Becker and caught two passes for 15 yards. The senior made five solo tackles on defense and recovered a fumble.
Kraft had dislocated his finger earlier in the game before breaking his collarbone. The junior caught two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.
Hanson completed 6 of 15 passes for 78 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He rushed 16 times for a net of 14 yards, but was sacked five times, negating some longer runs.
Junior Jack Nelson gained 46 yards on 12 carries. Becker had the edge in total yards at 316 to 195.
“We would have some nice drives but they would break down,” adds Pavlovich. “On its first drive, Becker converted on three third down opportunities and scored on a fourth down play that we thought we had covered.”
“A long touchdown pass at the end of the second quarter gave Becker a 14-0 halftime advantage. Some missed tackles on another touchdown pass in the third quarter put the Tigers down by three scores.
“Give Becker credit for taking some things away from us,” adds the coach. “We played two and a half good quarters of football and finally controlled the line in the fourth quarter, but it was too late.”
Senior Aaron Klaers led the defense with six solo and five assisted tackles. He also had been slowed by a shoulder injury. Junior Christian Triplett made five solo tackles with two assists.
All four of the teams that defeated Delano this year are in the state tournament, including Annandale, Hutchinson, Holy Family and Becker.
“This is the smallest senior class we had in 25 years,” said Pavlovich about the 10 who will graduate. “We have a strong junior class and had several sophomores who had varsity playing time.”