DELTA – Missed opportunities in the first half and a strong performance after the break by Tinora allowed the Rams to defeat Delta, 24-14, on the road at Panther Stadium on Friday.
However, the effort put forth by the Panthers is nothing for them to hang their heads about. For three and a half quarters they stuck with a team that was a state semifinalist in Division VI a year ago.
“We’ll rebound from this. We’ve got tough (and) resilient kids,” said Delta coach Jeff Wolford after the game. “I think this game made us better. And we saw what we had to do, and this will help move us up.”
A difference in the game was team experience as noted by Wolford. Not only in the fact that Tinora has 13 seniors, but also a veteran coaching staff.
“They keyed on our good back,” he said of the Rams. “A lot of stuff we do is to set up the counters and all of that. Well they were stuffing all of our primary plays, because of smart coaching. And then, when we tried to counter back, they were stuffing that too. So, they are just well coached.”
Up 10-6 at halftime thanks to a 22 yard field goal from Marcus Reeves with less than 30 seconds left, the Rams made it 17-6 at the 8:42 mark of the third on a nine yard touchdown run by Alex Gareau.
One might think the Panthers would give in at that point, however, they came right back. Sparking the drive was a completion out of the backfield to Bailey Storeholder on third-and-19 and a personal fould penalty after the play which put the ball at the Ram 39.
Delta’s Jesse Beverly ran 31 yards down to the eight yardline on the next play, and two plays after that, he punched it in from two yards out. Storeholder added a two-point conversion on a run around the right end to reduce the Tinora lead at 17-14 with 5:49 left in the third.
Delta defensive back Evan Vasquez intercepted a Brevin Renollet pass inside Panther territory at the 30 yard line on the next Tinora drive. But the Panthers were swiftly forced into a third-and-14 from their own 29 where Tinora’s Logan Bailey batted down Noah Parsons’ pass at the line of scrimmage, a play that happened numerous times in the second half.
Tinora gave the ball right back to Delta as Gareau fumbled near midfield on their next possession. However, once again on third down, a pass was knocked down at the line by Bailey.
The Rams got it back on their own 39 with two minutes left in the third. The drive dragged into the fourth where Tinora had advanced into Delta territory. On third-and-four from the Panther 29, a sweep around the left side called for Nathan Drewes was taken down to the 12 for a first down.
Following a three yard gain, Tinora’s Riley Nagel caught a pass in the flat and took it down to the Delta one to move the chains. The Rams scored two plays later on a quarterback keeper by Renollet which made it 24-14 with 9:36 left in the contest.
The Panthers only got two more possessions the rest of the game and Tinora stopped them on each opportunity.
Delta had the momentum throughout much of the first half as their defense forced a pair of turnovers.
The Panthers scored first when they got the ball with three minutes left in the first quarter, a drive that began at their own 24. On the first play of the drive Storeholder took a swing pass up the right sideline 76 yards for a TD. A failed extra point made it a 6-0 Delta advantage.
Things continued to go the Panthers way when T.J. Gares of Tinora fumbled on the first play of the Rams drive. The Rams defense, however, stiffened up and on a second-and-38 at the Ram 49, Renollet picked off a Delta pass inside their own 30.
“They stood their d-line up and our o-line kind of, I don’t want to say got shook. But that is just good coaching,” said Wolford of his team’s missed opportunity. “We weren’t prepared for that.”
Another missed opportunity for the Panthers came early in the second quarter when they took over possession at the Tinora 36 after a bad punt by the Rams.
Delta was quickly pushed into a third-and-four from the 30, and Storeholder picked up only two which made it fourth down. On fourth down, a pitch to Beverly on the right side was stopped a half yard short of the marker where the Rams took over.
They later capitalized as back-to-back tries by Gareau from seven yards out, the second was a three yard carry into the end zone which gave them a 7-6 lead with 6:25 left in until halftime. The Rams never again relinquished the lead.
For Delta, Parsons hit on 4 of 9 passes for 100 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Storeholder caught two of those passes for 79 yards and a TD. Beverly paced Delta on the ground with 92 yards on 16 carries and a TD.
The Panthers (1-1) will be at Tiffin Calvert on Friday.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010