Tall tales: Panthers ‘enormously tall’

Photo by William Woody—Delta High School head coach Ben Johnson, center, practices with his team in Delta Wednesday afternoon Aug. 16, 2012.

Photo by William Woody—Members of Delta High School football team practice fumble drills during practice in Delta Wednesday afternoon Aug. 16, 2012.

Photo by William Woody—Delta High School’s Robert Williams recovers a loose ball during practice in Delta Wednesday afternoon Aug. 16, 2012.

Photo by William Woody—Delta High School quarterback Mitchell Whiteside drives for a fumble during practice in Delta Wednesday afternoon Aug. 16, 2012.

Photo by William Woody—Delta High School defensive tackle Jasiel Garcia is double teamed during a run play during practice in Delta Wednesday afternoon Aug. 16, 2012.


About the Panthers

Head coach: Ben Johnson, fourth season, 18-14.

2011 record: 2-5 conference, 4-6 overall.

2011 JV record: 3-3.

Assistant coaches: Ryan Whittington, quarterbacks, running backs and linebackers; Paul Shean, running backs and defensive line; Craig Cerise, wide receivers and defensive backs; Lane Varner, wide receivers and outside linebackers.

Returning starters: QB Mitchell Whiteside, 6-3, 175, sr., all-conference; OG Josh Lindsey, 5-10, 200, sr.; OG/DL Jasiel Garcia, 5-8, 240, jr.; TE Douglas Hawkins, 6-3, 180, sr.;  WR/DB Ryan Whiteside, 6-3, 165, jr.; WR Chris Black, 5-8, 135, sr.;  RB Zach Decker, 6-1, 170, sr.; LB Robert Williams, 6-2, 205, sr., all-conference; DL Alfredo Rosales, 6-0, 200, sr.; DL Kyle Collins, 6-3, 215, sr.;  LB Cordell Stroud, 6-2, 180, jr.;  LB Tyler Sandoval, 6-0, 180, jr.

Key newcomers: TE Dakota Proctor 6-0, 200, sr., LB Josh Carney, 6-2, 185 sr.

Base offense: I Pro.

Base defense: 3-5.

Team outlook: Delta has depth and 18 seniors — the most in Johnson’s four years as head coach. The Panthers also return all-conference quarterback Mitchell Whiteside, who passed for 640 yards and four touchdowns.

Coach Johnson says: “Our (senior) depth also helps our lower-level programs, and some of those juniors can play JV and get stronger. This will be the first time we’ve had some quarterback depth and line depth.”

When Delta takes the football field for its season opener at Gunnison on Aug. 31, there will likely be some people in the crowd who mention boys basketball.

They’re that tall.

“Oh my gosh, our team is enormously tall,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “We look like a basketball team coming out. But we’ve got leverage issues.”

Mitchell Whiteside, a three-year starter at quarterback, is 6-foot-3.

Tight end Douglas Hawkins, wide receiver Ryan Whiteside, defensive lineman Kyle Collins and defensive back Ryan Whiteside all are 6-3.

Sophomore tight end Ian Baier is 6-5.

Look for Whiteside to throw jump balls to receivers.

“We tell Mitchell, ‘Don’t underthrow anything,’ ” Johnson said.

An advantage Delta will have on some opponents is Johnson has been coaching this year’s 18 seniors since they were freshman.

“That freshman class was a good class,” Johnson said. “We only lost a couple along the way, which was nice, and they stuck together. They’re a pretty close-knit group and all good friends, and I think their closeness as a group will help us a great deal this year.”

One position up for grabs is at tight end, where Hawkins, Dakota Proctor and Baier will compete for the position. Johnson said the starting position will be awarded to the playmaker.

“Whoever can catch the ball and block the edge will be the person to earn that position,” he said.

Four years ago, when Johnson arrived at Delta, the Panthers were .500. The next year, the Panthers went 9-3 and qualified for the state playoffs.

The Panthers are solid on the offensive side of the ball, Johnson said, with their tall receivers and experienced quarterback.

Conversely, the defense will be led by senior linebacker Robert Williams, a 6-2, 200-pound all-conference senior.

“He’s real strong, and he’s fast,” Johnson said of Williams. “He had a great camp at Colorado Mesa. Those coaches really liked him. He’s just a goer. He never takes a play off.”


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