After a 4-4 campaign in an odd season with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting everyone, the Delta football team has a solid group of players back from that squad as they look to have success in 2021.
“I like our kids,” said head coach Nate Ruple. “They’re tough kids; they’re hard-nosed kids. They love the game of football and they love each other. It’s a fun group of guys to coach. I have no doubt that they have the character to get the job done week in and week out. On the other hand, we’re playing some very talented football teams that are also gonna have some very talented players.
“We’re gonna give it our all and, like I said, week in and week out we’ll battle. We’ll see where the chips fall in November.”
The Panthers will run the Wing-T on offense this season and a 5-2 defensive scheme. Offensively, their strength lies along the offensive line and in the running game.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball if we want a chance (to win games). It’s just not our way to throw the ball around all over the field. So we’re gonna be relying heavily on our run game and our offensive line to make holes for us. Not only that, the style of football that we play, we’re gonna have to play defense. We’re gonna have to be able to contain teams and keep teams at a point threshold that we are able to compete with with our style of play,” explained Ruple.
Returning at running back for Delta is senior Josh Tresnan-Reighard, a first team All-Northwest Ohio Athletic League and honorable mention All-Northwest District selection in 2020. Tresnan-Reighard rushed for 607 yards and five touchdowns a season ago.
“He’s been a great player for three years. We are really excited to see him and be able to coach him his senior year,” Ruple said of his running back.
The Panthers also will have Jerremiah Wolford who ran for 390 yards and four TDs, plus Bryar Knapp who had 256 yards and a pair of scores.
Knapp is a threat in both the running and passing game.
“Smaller guy but a big heart,” said Ruple. “Really came on strong at the end of last year and gave us an outside threat to our running game that really helped us those last few games. Especially in the playoff game against Seneca East, had a big game in that game.
“He gives us a little flexibility; he allows us to do some different things than what we’re typically accustomed to. Which we’re hoping is gonna give defenses some problems as we go through the season.”
Anchoring the Delta offensive line will be senior center Austin Kohlhofer. He was first team all-league and second team all-district at his position in 2020.
“He’s far and away our rock on our offensive line. Outstanding kid. I’m excited to coach him his senior year as well,” said Ruple of Kohlhofer.
Other returning letter winners on the offensive line are Evan Perry, an honorable mention all-league guard, Rollin Robinson and Zane Shindorf. That unit should prove to be a strength this year.
“We have a few guys back on our offensive line. We had our two tackles graduate last year — Austin Michael and Kai Fox. We’re still trying to put those pieces in place to give us the best opportunity to succeed. But we have a little bit of experience coming back. We’re hoping our offensive line is able to gel and open up some seams for our running backs,” said Ruple.
Other returning letter winners for the Panthers are DJ Davis, Kalvin Tenney (honorable mention all-league linebacker), James Ruple and Shawn Cook.
Leading the way for them on defense is Perry, a second team all-league and second team all-district selection at linebacker. He finished 2020 with 70 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and one defensive TD.
Also back at linebacker is Tresnan-Reighard, who was named honorable mention all-league a season ago. He recorded 28 tackles, 3 TFLs, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a TD during his junior campaign.
Additionally, Kohlhofer was an honorable mention all-league defensive lineman and Knapp was honorable mention all-league at defensive back.
“We’re gonna be very inexperienced on the defensive line. So we’re gonna be relying a lot on our linebackers and our DBs to keep teams contained until we can develop some defensive linemen,” said coach Ruple on the main key for his team’s defense this season.
Delta was recently picked to finish third by the NWOAL coaches at their preseason meeting. For the Panthers to have success in the league, they must be on their toes each and every Friday beginning week four against Evergreen.
“We’re gonna have to play our best football game week in and week out,” said Ruple. “We’re gonna have to come together and we’re gonna have to play as a team.
“As in many years, this league’s got a lot of talented players. A lot of quality coaches.”
Delta welcomes Ayersville this Friday to begin the season.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.