Johnson hopes to get Delta on track

DELTA — If there’s one thing the Delta High School football program could use right now, it’s stability.

This year’s senior class has had three head coaches in its four years.

Ben Johnson is hoping to change that.

Johnson, who was an assistant coach at Olathe during the previous three seasons, is ready to establish the type of stability for the Panthers that its neighbor to the south has experienced over the years.

The players seem to like the enthusiasm Johnson brought to summer workouts.

Having been the defensive coordinator for Olathe’s undefeated state championship team last fall, Johnson also brought with him some credibility.

“Everybody’s fire in the gut seems a lot better,” senior defensive lineman Ethan Kraii said. “There’s more confidence.”

Johnson is fully aware that one of the biggest uphill battles he faces is playing in what some consider to be the best Class 3A conference in the state.

With defending state champion Glenwood Springs and perennial playoff qualifiers Palisade and Steamboat Springs in the mix, Johnson knows breaking into that top Western Slope Conference echelon is going to require some changes in practice approach and in attitude.

Qualifying for the playoffs is also at the forefront of Kraii’s mind.

“That’s been our goal since 8th grade,” he said.

Delta’s last 3A state playoff appearance was 10 years ago.

The Panthers went 3-5 in the WSC last season, including a two-point loss to Moffat County and a four-point loss to Eagle Valley.

“We were that close to the playoffs,” Kraii said.

That was his motivation for going to 7-on-7 drills and hitting the weight room this summer.

“Every time I thought about giving up, I thought about last year,” he said. “It got me mad and helped me push through stuff.”

Johnson plans to open things up a bit with a spread-type offense and take advantage of strength in the linebacking numbers to run a 3-5 defense.

With some speed and quickness at the skill positions, Johnson likes the potential of his offense.

For Kraii, the answer to an improved season is simple.

“Everybody does their job,” he said.

Kraii and his defensive teammates will spend the season trying to use speed and guile to pursue their opponents.

Some minor dissension issues caused problems at times last season, something Kraii hopes to help eliminate through senior leadership.

“It’s a lot easier than the last couple of years just because everybody’s helping each other out,” Kraii said.


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