BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Concerned about the section football team rating system, Delano coach Merrill Pavlovich said the goal against Holy Family Catholic (HFC) last week was to post a shutout and put points on the board.
The simple strategy was planned because the coaching staff still did not know the formula used to rank teams for the playoffs. When the dust cleared following a 42-0 Tiger victory, Delano was named the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A, Section 5 tournament by a half of a point over Becker.
Delano (7-1) had a first round bye and will play the winner of No. 4 Big Lake or No. 5 Zimmerman at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 at home. Both teams are 2-6. A Tiger victory puts the team at home in the section title game against either Becker (7-1) or No. 3 Orono (6-2) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1.
“We don’t know the rating formula and nobody will tell us,” said Pavlovich. “We know we played bigger schools in our conference and in the non-conference, while most of Becker’s games were against smaller schools. There are so many other variables to figure in.”
Many variables have figured into the winning season for Delano, which outscored opponents 261-89. The variable the coach likes most about earning the No. 1 seed is getting home field advantage. Pavlovich adds, “I’ve always said playing at home is worth one touchdown. That was the difference in our playoff loss to Becker last year.”
When facing Delano, opposing teams must factor in the variable of six Tiger players having three years of varsity starting and big game experience, plus several more who have played a lot the past two years. Pavlovich calls it an investment that could provide some dividends.
Senior leaders in the playoffs include the likes of quarterback Toby Hanson, running back Jack Nelson, pass receiver and defensive back Adam Kraft and linemen Damon Longstreet, Christian Triplett and Wyatt Russek. All have started for three seasons.
Hanson started at quarterback for the second year, leading a potent running attack, plus passing effectively when called upon. Against Holy Family, Hanson was 10 of 15 passing for 183 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed nine times for 28 yards and scored on a 17-yard run. For the season Hanson has completed 40 of 71 passes with 11 touchdowns and only a few interceptions.
“In Toby’s defense, a few balls have been dropped,” said Pavlovich. “Toby has matured as a quarterback. He’s got enough athletic savvy and has been in situations to be a leader as a carryover from playing other sports.”
Hanson was a leading scorer in basketball the past two seasons, helping Delano advance to the state tournament last season. He has played in three state baseball tournaments and wants to advance to state in football to make it a triple crown of state tournaments.
Nelson also has been a major factor in Tiger success this season, clearing the 1,000-yard mark in rushing against Holy Family. The senior gained 121 yards on nine carries, scoring on a 70-yard run. He was pulled back to rest the ankle he sprained. The first-round bye was welcomed by Pavlovich to get his runner up to full speed.
Kraft caught four passes for 105 yards, one going for a 45-yard touchdown. Longstreet had two catches for 25 yards and a 15-yard touchdown pass. On defense he was in on seven tackles and had three and a half sacks.
Pavlovich said every year there are some surprise performances from younger newcomers on varsity. He points to the likes of junior Brady Miller at defensive back and as the backup quarterback. Sophomores starting include defensive end Carl Schaefbauer, center Walker Russek and offensive lineman Kevin Kneisl. Schaefbauer had six tackles against HFC.
Another big surprise was the extra point kicking of ninth-grader Evan Tolkkinen, who was 6 for 6 against Holy Family, has kicked 15 extra points in a row and is 31 of 37 on the season. He has not kicked a field goal but Pavlovich says he would let him try one from 35 to 40 yards if needed in a game.
Several juniors contributed to the varsity. Brett Norling rushed eight times for 63 yards against Holy Family, scoring from 15-yards out. He also caught four passes for 54 yards, adding a 25-yard touchdown catch. Aaron Wagner gained 26 yards on seven carries and recovered a fumble on defense. Nate Meyer rushed three times for nine yards and had five tackles at linebacker.
Also on defense, seniors Zack Linden and Sawyer Thommes took part in nine tackles each while Triplett helped with six tackles.
Delano’s only loss was against undefeated and defending state champ Hutchinson.