DELTA – Delta football is peaking at the right time towards the end of the regular season. Recently back into the top eight of the OHSAA computer rankings in Division VI, Region 20, the Panthers took it to the visiting Archbold Blue Streaks Friday night, 55-20, to move to 6-3 on the season.
“This was the best game we played all year,” said Panther coach Jeff Wolford after the game. “We just showed up and played. We play this way all year, who knows what’s gonna happen.”
On the Panthers first drive of the game, they used the running game combination of Bailey Storeholder and Jesse Beverly to advance into the red zone. After picking up a huge first down on a fourth-and-two from Beverly’s 16 yard gash up the middle, Storeholder ran it in from 24 yards out to put the Panthers on top 7-0.
While Archbold had their share of struggles on offense, they started fast on the ensuing possession as Sam Petersen ran for 10 yards and quarterback Gabe Petersen tossed a strike over the middle to Derek Walker for 45 yards down to the Delta 23 yard line.
However, their drive stalled from there and a 37-yard field goal attempt by Seth Mayer was no good to keep the score the same with 3:23 left in the opening stanza.
“That’s the thing with young guys out there,” said Archbold coach David Dominique referring to his team’s struggles on offense. “They are gonna learn. They are learning as we go.”
The advantage for Delta carried over into the second quarter. On the Panther’s opening drive, they methodically drove the ball down the field. After getting into Archbold territory at the 20, Beverly carried the Blue Streak defenders all the way down to the 10 on second-and-six.
Then, three straight Beverly runs resulted in a two-yard TD on third and goal to push the lead to 14-0 at the 8:34 mark of the second quarter.
Beverly’s score was one of five on the day as the junior ran 21 times for 175 yards.
Coach Wolford noted that the offensive line deserves some of the credit for the running game that accrued 365 yards total.
“My assistant coaches, all week, they just preached and preached you have to sustain your blocks,” he said. “Those senior linemen, they had a great game. There has been a couple of games where some of our guys haven’t played well. Tonight, it all came together.”
“The main thing is they got off the ball (faster),” added Dominique. “They pushed our little guys off the ball. Our plan was to use our speed and quickness against them and obviously it didn’t work.
“We didn’t hit them. We didn’t hit like we needed to and that showed on the scoreboard.”
The two squads then alternated turnovers when after the Blue Streaks tossed an interception, the Panthers fumbled the ball back to them, giving the Streaks possession at the Panther 23.
Archbold capitalized as Gabe Petersen found Nic Rodriguez for a 23 yard TD, and after Seth Mayer tacked on the extra point, the Streaks found themselves down 14-7 with 7:26 left until half.
Beverly answered the bell, taking the corresponding kick-off 65 yards down to the Blue Streak 30. The Panthers picked up three yards on first down, then quarterback Noah Parsons ran for 12 on an option play, Rogers for two, and Beverly burst up the middle for a TD from 13 yards out to make it 21-7 with 5:30 left in the half.
Another brief possession for Archbold and an errant punt allowed Delta to get the ball back inside Blue Streak territory.
Parsons started the drive with a 15 yard run on a keeper down to the 11 yard line. Four plays later, Beverly scored from a yard out to increase Delta’s lead at 28-7 heading into the break.
Delta got the ball to begin the second half, beginning their drive at Archbold’s 22 yard line as Beverly returned the opening kick 71 yards. They stuck with Beverly on fourth-and-two from the 14 as he slipped a tackle and found his way into the end zone for a 35-7 advantage.
Storeholder scored his second TD of the game when Delta got the ball back, running in a one-yard score to make it 42-7.
Archbold responded with a 17 yard strike to Rodriguez for a TD at the 4:10 mark of the third quarter.
Closing out the scoring were Beverly with a 34 yard run, Rogers on a one-yard plunge, and Archbold’s Joe Richer with a nine-yard reception late in the fourth.
Also for Delta, Storeholder carried 15 times for 106 yards and a pair of scores and Rogers 9 for 55 and a TD.
Gabe Petersen was 10 for 26 through the air for 143 yards, two TDs but also had three picks.
Delta (6-3, 4-2 NWOAL) now turns their attention to Swanton as they travel to face the co-league leading Bulldogs to close the season.
“Next week if we come out and lay an egg, it could be completely the other way,” said Wolford on the match up with Swanton. “I hope it isn’t. But our guys, they’ve got to come to work. They can’t rest on their laurels.”
Archbold (4-5, 2-4) returns home to battle Evergreen.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010