More carries for Brown sparks Delta’s offense
DELTA — It was an ugly, demoralizing loss for the Delta Panthers.
The defending Class 2A Champions came to town and drilled the Panthers in convincing fashion.
Delta coach Ben Johnson needed to find a solution or the Panthers’ playoff run would be short and sour.
He found a solution, a big 240-pound solution wearing No. 6.
For eight games senior Tristan Brown was asked to block and be physical at fullback and linebacker. Things changed after the Bayfield loss.
“We needed to start getting him 15-plus touches a game,” coach Ben Johnson said.
Coming into the Bayfield game, the Panthers’ run game was unstoppable, mostly because senior speedster Damon Jensen ripped apart defenses. He had seven straight 100-yard games, including four 200-plus games.
In the seven games before Bayfield, Jensen had 1,500 yards. Bayfield held him to just 38 yards on 13 carries. The Wolverines held the Panthers to a measly 88 yards rushing and beat Delta 23-7 on Oct. 21.
Something had to change.
Cue Tristan Brown the ball carrier.
“Once we got into the playoffs we knew we needed to change some things and hit some things a little quicker,” Johnson said about getting Brown more carries.
“Right after Bayfield we made that change. We felt that we missed some opportunities there, we were a little slow,” Johnson said. “They are a very good football team, but we felt like we weren’t playing to our capabilities.”
It was a big change for Brown. After the nine-game regular season, Brown had 38 carries for 214 yards. In two playoff games, Brown carried the ball 42 times.
In the 14-7 first-round playoff victory over Faith Christian, Brown had 131 yards on 21 carries. Then last week, in the 23-8 win over Resurrection Christian, the big guy packed the pigskin 21 times for 151 yards.
“I love it. I always wanted more carries,” Brown said, smiling after last week’s win. “I love football, so give me all the carries I can take. I’m going to give it all I got.”
Feeding the fullback is a simple concept: The shortest distance between two points in a straight line. He hits the line quicker and if it’s successful, the other offensive options open up.
Jensen said it makes the offense more dangerous.
“The thing with going to Tristan so much, is it spreads us out,” he said. “I’ll be able to get to the edge, he can run down the middle, and we just have so many more options.”
Two big plays against the Cougars last week showed how well the concept works.
On the first play, after Brown busted loose for a 13-yard gain to the Cougars’ 2, quarterback Kole Roberts pulled the ball out and ran around the left side untouched for the score.
On a third-and-1 late in the third, the Cougars sideline roared when they thought Brown was stuffed short of the first down. But he didn’t have the ball. Roberts kept it and zipped about the edge for a 29-yard gain.
It is Roberts’ read and his decision when to do that.
“They were biting on Tristan really hard, he’s a big guy and runs hard, so I just started reading it,” Roberts said. “Once I saw my opportunity, I’d pull it and run around the edge.”
Brown smiled about fooling the defense.
“When he pulls it out, there’s no one guarding the outside because everyone is crashing in on me,” he said.
Brown agreed that the offense has become more diverse since the Bayfield loss.
“It just opens up a lot more opportunities,” he said. “We have a lot of good players on this team, so we’re utilizing our talents better now. With my size and strength, I get the hard yards and that will bring the defense in and open it up for the fast guys to get to the outside. It also helps our play-action (pass) game.”
Brown is one of the best middle linebackers in Class 2A, but the extra workload on offense hasn’t seemed to hurt him on the defensive side.
“At times it gets a little tiring but when we have those big plays that raises your energy back up and helps you push through,” he said.
Come Saturday in the 2A semifinals against No. 6 Kent Denver (10-1), expect the formula to remain the same.
A steady diet of Brown handoffs, letting the big fullback grind out the tough yards on quick hitters. Then watch for Jensen and Roberts to try and get to the outside, and Roberts using the play-action pass to go down field.
Sounds simple, and for two weeks of playoff football it’s been the perfect recipe for victory.