BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Delano pass receiver Adam Kraft does not frown on the fact his head coach does not like to throw the ball very often because the senior trusts Merrill Pavlovich will put the team in position to win.
The Tigers roared to a fifth straight victory, defeating Orono 28-6 Friday, setting up a battle of unbeatens when Delano plays at defending state champion Hutchinson, 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4.
Asked to return kicks this season, Kraft opened the game at Orono with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. The three-year starter at defensive back was in position to return an interception 78 yards for a score. Kraft did catch three of the four passes thrown by quarterback Toby Hanson for 50 yards.
Delano’s defenders have been in good position to stop opposing offenses, allowing just 46 points in the five wins. Against Orono, the Tigers had four interceptions and a fumble recovery by Nate Meyer. Arick Neisen, Brady Miller and Seth Norling also intercepted passes. On the season, Delano has 10 interceptions and six fumble recoveries.
While the defense continued to be effective, Pavlovich said the offense left a few potential touchdowns on the field. One pass was dropped in the end zone, an interception ended a drive on Orono’s 5 yard line and a field goal attempt was blocked.
The other negative was the injury to standout running back Jack Nelson in the first half. The senior who gained 72 yards on 17 carries, rolled his ankle and did not play in the second half. Nelson has gained 733 yards on 87 carries this season.
Hanson, who was slowed by a hip injury a couple games ago, ran the ball 11 times for 75 yards and scored on runs of 4 and 19 yards. Aaron Wagner had 11 carries for 49 yards and Brett Norling gained 51 yards on 10 carries.
Sawyer Thomas was in on 11 tackles to spark the defense. Christian Triplett had nine tackles, seven solo and forced a fumble. Damon Longstreet had nine tackles a blocked pass and a sack. Neisen had eight tackles.
Kraft is looking forward to the opportunity to knock off Hutchinson. He says his team has plenty of weapons to win this game, but more importantly, to get to the state tourney.
The senior credits his success as a receiver, defender and kick returner to rising to be 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, up by 15 pounds with increased strength and speed. He worked out in the weight room almost every day last summer and attended a speed and agility training program.
“We get so many turnovers because our coaches pound the other team’s offense into our heads,” said Kraft about the importance of game preparation. “We get handouts and study video of formations and are very prepared.”
Kraft made the varsity baseball and basketball teams as a sophomore, but gave up both sports to concentrate on his passion for football. He switched to track where he can work on his speed and not playing basketball was easier on his knees.
“I did feel a little jealous when driving to watch our basketball team play in Williams Arena at the state tournament,” said Kraft, who would also have played in the last two state baseball tournaments. “I love the game of football because it has a very large scoop of power and emotion that is hard to describe.”
Hutchinson rolled to a 47-0 romp over Holy Family Friday, a team it defeated for the state championship last season.