LIBERTY CENTER – After battling back from a 14-point deficit in the first half, the Delta football team could only manage one more score after the break as Liberty Center added a Zack Carpenter rushing touchdown with 1:53 remaining to seal their 31-21 victory Friday night.
“We played a very bad first quarter. Terrible first quarter,” said Delta mentor Jeff Wolford. “We weren’t flying off the ball, we weren’t staying low. Then we finally fought back, found some things. (We) Got the ball moving. And then, offensively, they (Liberty Center) just ate the clock. They were the better team tonight.”
The Panthers tied the score at 14 in the second quarter thanks to a 55 yard TD run by Bailey Storeholder, five yard score by Jesse Beverly, and a pair of Evan Vasquez extra points.
However, with 44 seconds left in the first half, Carpenter ran in from two yards out on third-and-goal for the Tigers to give them a 21-14 edge at halftime.
Liberty Center began the third quarter with the ball, where on second-and-four at Delta’s 37 yard line, a run around the right end by North West was stuffed. However, a personal foul penalty on the Panthers gave the Tigers a first down at the 25.
An unsportsmanlike conduct infraction on the Panthers during the next play, a carry for Carpenter, set LC up at the Panther eight yard line. However, no gains for the Tigers on first and third down, as well as a loss of two on second for Carpenter, set up a 27 yard field goal by Connor Strauss which made it 24-14 at the 5:36 mark of the third.
Although they had trouble moving the ball after the break, Delta was able to put together a lengthy drive that carried into the fourth.
Storeholder caught a screen pass for 20 yards on the drive, also forcing a pass interference on the Tigers on third-and-11 from their own 49 to move the ball into Tiger territory at the 36. The Panthers were then forced into a fourth-and-nine from the 35, however, quarterback Noah Parsons hit Devon Richard for a first down at the Tiger 23.
A loss of three followed, then Beverly picked up two yards, and a 13 yard completion to Vasquez down to the 11 gave Delta another first down. Three plays later, on third-and-11 from the 12, Parsons connected with Dustin Marteney on a fade route in the right corner of the end zone to pull the Panthers within three, 24-21, with only 4:09 left in the game.
However, on the ensuing kick off, West went up the right sideline for 55 yards to set LC up at the Delta 25.
“The kid broke one,” said Wolford on the play. “We’ve been working our special teams a lot and we’ve just got to get better.”
The Tigers turned to Carpenter three straight times and on third down at the Panther 18, he carried down to the 10 to move the chains. He followed that up by busting through tacklers on the next play for a 10 yard TD, essentially icing the game with only 1:53 left.
Delta moved down inside LC territory at the 34, but the drive stalled on fourth-and-15 when a pair of Panther receivers collided and the ball fell incomplete.
Parsons finished by completing 6 of 14 passes for 63 yards and the TD to Marteney. Storeholder carried 15 times for 105 yards and a TD, while Beverly had 43 yards and a score.
But even with the loss, their second straight in NWOAL play, coach Wolford wants his team to remain upbeat.
“If we win out we can still make the playoffs,” he said. “We are not going to be league champs, probably, but if we get a couple more quality wins, we can make the playoffs. We have to come together.”
Delta (3-3, 1-2 NWOAL) returns home to take on Evergreen on Friday.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010