It could be argued that perhaps Delta outplayed Wauseon, however, the Indians never gave in and with time running short, they drove 85 yards in six plays, culminating with a 61-yard catch and run by Tyson Rodriguez for the go-ahead touchdown and 7-3 victory over the Panthers Friday night in NWOAL football at Harmon Field.
“We knew it was gonna be a physical, tough football game,” said Wauseon coach Shawn Moore. “It was kind of a ground and pound, and they were slowing us down. We just kept sticking with what we thought was gonna work. Made a couple of adjustments. They (Delta) played a hell of a football game. We got down to basically our last play and our guys were able to, finally, break one and make a big play. That’s what we kept telling them, if we kept sticking with things we’re gonna break one, eventually we’re gonna connect.
“Sometimes you got to win ugly.”
Wauseon managed just 234 yards of total offense — 248 through the air but had -14 yards rushing. Delta had 180 total yards, with 162 coming on the ground.
Despite the loss, Panther coach Nate Ruple liked what he saw from his team during the game.
“I’m very pleased with the effort and poise our guys displayed throughout Friday’s game with Wauseon. It was a hard-fought football game that went down to the wire and our guys left it on the field,” Ruple said.
A pair of holding penalties called on Wauseon on the punt set them up at their own 15-yard line to begin their final drive. The possession was kept alive when quarterback Trey Parsons completed one to Jude Armstrong for 16 yards on a slant pattern on fourth-and-three at the 22.
Two plays later, Parsons connected with Rodriguez over the middle and he eluded Panther tacklers and raced 61 yards to paydirt with 1:28 to go. Rodriguez also tacked on the extra point that made it a 7-3 game.
“It’s nice to have Sam (Smith) and Jude, and to have that third guy (Rodriguez) to be able to go out there (and make plays). Maybe they’re not paying as much attention and he’s still got the skills to run past some people and make some big plays. He was able to come across and make a big catch in traffic, Trey was getting hit on that play and was able to deliver it. Because we knew that we had to get the ball off; couldn’t take a sack in that moment,” Moore said on Rodriguez’ contribution to the offense and the final play.
Before taking the lead late, the Indians were able to keep it within reach thanks to the grit showed by its defense.
On the Panthers first possession of the game they used the two-headed running attack of Jerremiah Wolford and Bryar Knapp to get down to the Wauseon four yard-line. But on fourth-and-two from the four, Delta quarterback James Ruple tried to sneak it for the first down but he was stuffed by the defense.
Delta was able to score first with 6:17 left in the opening half as Phil Smithers drilled a 34-yard field goal. The key play of the drive was a one-handed catch by Knapp for 18 yards.
The Panthers were also in line to score on their first possession of the second half, but came up empty. A trio of Wauseon penalties — including a facemask and unsportsmanlike conduct — set Delta up with a goal-to-go situation at the nine.
On third-and-goal at the five Ruple was able to scramble down to the one. Nevertheless, Wolford could not get it over the goal line on fourth down and the Panthers turned it over on downs.
“Those are huge plays,” said Moore of his team’s two goal line stands. “The guys aren’t giving up. You could of easily just put our heads down and let them walk into the end zone. Big plays down there that give a little bit of momentum. We just know we’re gonna have to be better next week (against Archbold) — it’s gonna have to be a lot better.”
As is obvious by looking at the scoreboard, the Panther defense played good as well. They were able to put pressure on Parsons all night, just gave up the one big play.
“We knew we had to pressure the quarterback if we were going to slow down Wauseon’s offense,” noted Coach Ruple. “Wauseon has some of the best wide receivers in the NWOAL. Covering guys with that type of talent is a challenge. Hats off to our defensive coaching staff and players for an excellent game.”
Wauseon moves to 6-2 overall and has now won four straight in the NWOAL. They travel to Archbold this Friday.
Delta (5-3, 3-2 NWOAL) welcomes Patrick Henry this week.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.