Delta Panthers stun No. 4 Classical in football playoffs

COLORADO SPRINGS — The Classical Academy played a freshman quarterback for its injured starter, and Delta’s defense seized on the situation for a 21-0 upset win Saturday in the first round of the Class 3A state football playoffs.

TCA freshman Austin Bervig was pressed into service for Jantzen Ryals, who had thrown for 1,872 yards and 21 touchdowns before breaking his collarbone.

Bervig completed seven of 23 passes for 52 yards and threw two interceptions, and a series of dropped passes and a defensive miscue at the end of the first half put No. 4 seed TCA (9-2) in straits it couldn’t overcome.

An interception by Delta’s Saul Sanchez set up the 13th-seeded Panthers (8-3) to score first, and Zach Decker broke loose down the right sideline for 42 yards for a 7-0 lead with 3:44 left in the first quarter.

“I got outside to score and knew we were going to win it from there on,” said Decker, who finished with a game-high 143 yards on 23 carries.

TCA reached Delta’s 10-yard line late in the first half, but on third-and-goal a dropped pass in the end zone forced the Titans to try a 26-yard field goal, which was no good.

TCA was caught out of position on Delta’s next drive with 6.5 seconds remaining in the first half. The Titans stacked the box at midfield, expecting a run, but Panthers quarterback Mitch Whiteside hit Chris Black on a quick slant, and the receiver broke free from two defenders for a 47-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 14-0.

TCA lost a fumble at his own 44 on its first drive of the second half, and Delta responded with a 10-play scoring drive for a 21-0 lead with 5:23 left in the third.

Panthers coach Ben Johnson credited his defense for controlling the game during a blustery afternoon that had occasional snow flurries. The Panthers held TCA to 171 offensive yards and forced three turnovers.

“In the playoffs turnovers are such a crucial part of it,” Johnson said. “If you can get turnovers, more often than not you’re the one winning the football game.”


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