Whiteside leads Delta to upset of Palisade
One quarter is a fluke.
Two quarters is luck.
After four quarters, the Delta High School football team controls its own destiny.
A 14-0 first-quarter lead turned into a 26-21 upset win over Palisade at Stocker Stadium, drastically changing the 3A Western Slope Conference playoff picture.
It’s the first time in Delta quarterback Mitch Whiteside’s career as a starter that the Panthers topped the powerhouse Bulldogs, and it was his passing attack, with a little trickery, that led the way. Whiteside threw for 139 yards and a touchdown, completing 77 percent of his passes. He also scored twice on the ground.
“Confidence was a huge part of it for us,” Whiteside said. “I threw the ball with confidence, the receivers caught the ball with confidence. It feels great to beat a great team like Palisade.
“(Trick plays) were definitely in the game plan, but that wasn’t how we planned to beat them.”
Delta (6-2, 5-1 WSC) set up its first score, a three-yard touchdown rush from Zach Decker, with a 35-yard halfback pass.
The Panthers stuffed Palisade on a short fourth down, and turned that into another touchdown drive. Whiteside caught a 13-yard pass from his halfback, Decker. A few plays later, he found Chris Black on a 45-yard pass to the one-yard line, and Whiteside dove in for the touchdown two plays later.
Excluding its loss to Rifle, it was the only time Palisade gave 14 points in a game, let alone the first quarter.
Palisade (6-2, 4-2 WSC) put together a furious comeback. Down 26-7 to start the fourth quarter, Palisade quarterback Luke McLean found Caden Woods for a seven-yard touchdown pass with 5 minutes, 47 seconds remaining. The Bulldogs recovered the ensuing onside kick, then scored another touchdown through the air, this time from McLean to Tass Crow with a little more than two minutes left.
“We just didn’t play well at all,” Palisade coach John Arledge said.
Dalton Hannigan led the Bulldog offense with 134 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Palisade falls to fourth in the conference with the loss. Delta hosts Rifle on Friday in a matchup of the top two teams in the conference. Delta controls its own destiny with head-to-head tiebreakers against Eagle Valley (7-1, 5-1), and now Palisade. Eagle Valley has to play Palisade and Rifle in its next two games, and if Eagle Valley drops one of those, Delta will likely receive an at-large bid to the 3A state playoffs if it tops Steamboat Springs. It would be the Panthers’ first playoff trip since 2009.
“The kids played hard the whole time, and we knew it was touch and go from the beginning,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “Palisade is a good team, and we knew they’d make a comeback. The onside kick is always a scary play for us. They got us on one, and we were able to get the other. This was obviously a big win for us, and I’m excited for our kids.”