BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Delano may be in a similar position as last football season when set to face Becker for the Class 4A, Section 5 tournament title. However, upon further review, the position is much more positive.
Last season the Tigers lost 21-13 to section champ Becker. Coach Merrill Pavlovich recalls how his beat up squad limped into the game missing three starters at the start and lost three more big weapons to injury during the game when playing on the road.
This time around, 8-1 Delano is home against 8-1 Becker, 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, fielding a full roster of healthy players who are ready to prove the No. 1 seed is deserved.
Two Tigers who could not finish last year’s title game had major contributions to Delano’s 40-21 victory over Big Lake at home last Saturday in the semifinals. Senior Adam Kraft caught three passes for 90 yards, including one for a 45-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Toby Hanson. Kraft also five tackles and returned four punts for 94 yards.
Senior Damon Longstreet was disruptive as a defensive end, who would drop back as a linebacker. He had four tackles, one sack and intercepted two passes. On offense he caught one pass for nine yards and provided key blocks for the offense that rolled up 407 total yards.
Leading the offensive attack was senior running back Jack Nelson, who showed little effects of his sprained ankle by rushing 20 times for 149 yards and scored on runs of 43 and 11 yards in three quarters of work.
Junior Aaron Wagner scored on runs of 26 and 1 yards, plus rushed nine times for 71 yards. On defense he had four tackles, two sacks and recovered a fumble. Junior Brett Norling gained 43 yards on eight rushes and caught two passes for 22 yards. Hanson was 6 of 9 passing for 121 yards and the one touchdown. He rushed three times for 17 yards, scoring on a 1-yard sneak.
Senior Christian Triplett had eight tackles to power the defense, plus caused one fumble and tipped two passes leading to interceptions. Juniors Brady Miller and Nate Meyer both had eight tackles, senior Sawyer Thommes had six tackles and sophomore Carl Schaefbauer was in on five tackles.
“We had a slow start by going down 7-0 and Big Lake threatened to score again before our defense got going,” notes Pavlovich. “After not playing on Tuesday we came out a little flat. They were quicker than we thought and it took a while to adjust.”
Pavlovich also gave credit to offensive linemen, including senior Ben Jacobs, sophomore Kevin Kneisl and center Walker Russek, a 6-2, 240-pound ninth-grader.
Becker advanced with a 28-26 edging of Orono. The winner advances to the state tournament against the Section 7 champ, 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 at St. Cloud State University.