3A football playoff: Pueblo East ends Delta’s season
DELTA — Delta senior quarterback Mitch Whiteside ended his high school career with a 13-yard pass to his brother Ryan. It wasn’t one he could celebrate, though, as the Panthers lost to Pueblo East, 35-24.
But Whiteside and his fellow seniors knew they were building something bigger. This year was Delta’s first playoff appearance since 2009, and last week’s 21-0 win over The Classical Academy was only Delta’s second playoff victory since 1999.
“(A deep playoff run) was definitely how I saw my senior season going,” Whiteside said. “We definitely laid down a path for years to come. We left something great, and now it’s time for the younger kids to step up and top what we did.”
Whiteside made his final performance for the Panthers a memorable one. He threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He also accounted for a score on the ground, breaking two tackles and finding the corner on a 45-yard touchdown scramble. Whiteside threw an interception in the first half and struggled to complete a pass until the second quarter, but after getting that first connection, Whiteside ripped off seven straight completions before halftime.
“(Mitch) battled all the way to the end, and sometimes that’s tough for kids to do when they’re down by three scores,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “We wanted him to keep playing until the final whistle. He had a great year, and he got to end his career on a touchdown pass.”
Johnson also acknowledged the Panthers’ senior class paved the way for future success. He said it was one of the keys he stressed after the loss.
“We talked to the kids about it after the game, about how good our senior class was and how they won some good games for us,” Johnson said. “We wanted them to know that they laid the groundwork that we can build off of. We want to take this season and use it to get back here again.”
Defensively, the Panthers struggled to contain Pueblo East quarterback Kurt Rode. Rode threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the first half,and broke the 200-yard mark and notched a third touchdown in the second half.
“We’ve got some things we have to work on,” Johnson said. “I thought we missed some opportunities. We were inside the 20 (yard line) twice and only came away with three points. We got beat over the top early, and it felt like we went down 13-3 really quick. We never gained momentum back after that.”