BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Powered by its bread and butter running plays, Delano has feasted on opposing football teams this season and is hungry for more in the upcoming section playoffs.
The Tigers improved to 6-1 after the 42-13 victory over Litchfield Friday. A victory over Holy Family Catholic on Wednesday, after this issue went to press, could give Delano the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A, Section 5 tournament, resulting in home field advantage.
If Delano receives the top section seed, it would get a first round bye on Tuesday, Oct. 22 and then open at home, 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26. The title game is 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1.
Litchfield was unable to slow down the effective Tiger running attack, which starts with the linemen paving the road, says coach Merrill Pavlovich. He praised the work of his senior leaders, including Christian Triplett (6-4, 290), Damon Longstreet (6-6, 220), Wyatt Russek (6-3, 285) and Ben Jacobs (5-10, 215). Good work has also been done by sophomore newcomers Kevin Kneisl and Walker Russek.
“We have been a run first, pass second offense, which has been our nature for years,” said Pavlovich. “We do some things that are no secret. Teams know what is coming but have trouble stopping it. Against Litchfield, we made a couple of adjustments in how we blocked and were surprised how well it worked.”
Benefiting from the push up front was Jack Nelson, who rushed nine times for 117 yards before spraining his ankle for the second time this season and did not play in the second half. The senior scored on runs of 25 and 47 yards in the first half.
Brett Norling carried nine times for 86 yards and caught three passes from quarterback Toby Hanson for 103 yards. His touchdown catch went for 37 yards. Hanson was 6 of 11 passing for 139 yards and two scores. He also rushed three times for 36 yards, scoring on a 22-yard run. Pavlovich noted how two passes were dropped in the end zone or Hanson’s stats would have been more impressive.
Fullback Aaron Wagner gained 66 yards on 11 rushes. Nate Meyer filled in for Nelson and gained 35 yards on eight carries, scoring on a 5-yard run. Longstreet caught two passes for 18 yards, one of 10 yards resulting in a touchdown. Adam Kraft had one catch for 18 yards. Evan Tolkkinen was good on all six extra point kicks.
“Our linemen have a combination of size and experience,” adds Pavlovich. “They all worked hard in the weight room last summer and paid their dues. They are great athletes and you cannot teach size.”
Triplett also led the Tigers with 10 tackles, six unassisted, plus forced a fumble. Pavlovich said how linebacker Carl Schaefbauer traded places with Wagner on the defensive line and had a quarterback sack and forced a fumble.
Sawyer Thommes and Jason McDonald both recovered fumbles. Brett Norling moved from linebacker to cornerback, helping him to stay fresher at running back.