No passing fancy
Gafford-to-Whiteside combination works beautifully in Delta's season-opening win
DELTA — Cade Gafford’s mind drifted during school Friday toward his first start under center on the Delta High School varsity football team.
“If I start worrying about hyping things, I psych myself out,” Gafford said. “I wasn’t thinking about the game, honestly. Whenever I get to game time, that’s when I want to ramp it up a bit.
“(The game) was definitely creeping (into his mind). I had to tell myself, ‘No!’ “
The 6-foot-6 junior quarterback and the Class 3A Panthers proved they were ready to start a 2013 season with higher expectations Friday night, rolling to a 39-7 victory over Gunnison, a Class 2A team, at Panther Stadium.
Gafford completed 14 of 20 passes for 230 yards and four touchdowns. Senior receiver Ryan Whiteside, who stands 6-3, caught nine passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns.
“That’s a good combination,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “You’ve got a 6-6 quarterback that sees the field well. Then you’ve got a 6-3 receiver that can jump and catch the ball.”
Gafford gave a lot of the credit to Whiteside.
“Ryan is just one of those guys, if you put it in a 10-yard radius of him, you can have pretty good faith he’ll catch the ball,” Gafford said. “Tonight he was outrunning guys. All I have to do is lay it up there for him, and it’s easy money.”
Delta’s ability to pass the football made running the ball easy.
Delta (1-0) rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Derek Horn had 11 carries for 82 yards, and Tyler Sandoval had seven carries for 31 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s definitely going to help our running game,” Gafford said of the passing attack. “I know Rifle had (Ryan) Moeller, and he was a force, but they didn’t pass it a lot. If they had a strong passing game, they could’ve ran even further. To be able to pass the ball and stretch the defense out will open up the run game.”
Delta’s defense allowed Gafford and the offense to be aggressive. Gunnison went three plays and out on its first four possessions and was shut out until late in the third quarter.
“I thought we played very sound defensively until we got up 39-0,” Johnson said. “I think we got a little complacent and put some other kids in. It gave them momentum, and football is an interesting game when you give the other team momentum.”
The Panthers limited Gunnison to 211 yards of total offense, 171 yards in the second half.
“We have a run-stop defense,” Sandoval said. “We wanted to shut them out and hold them to a goose egg. We got a little lax toward the end.
“I feel the defense played real well tonight. We did our jobs and had fun.”
Delta scored on five of its six possessions in the first half for a 32-0 lead. The Panthers went up 39-0 in the third quarter, but let up and made some mistakes.
“We sort of fell asleep in the second half,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if it’s because we had the lead. We had that turnover. We just weren’t as sharp.”
The Panthers know they will need to play better next week when they face longtime rival Montrose.
“We’re going to have to sharpen up,” Sandoval said. “We’re going to have to fill that run harder and play a hard-nosed defense.”
“When you play good teams like that early, they really show what you need to work on,” Johnson said. “We’ll find out what we need to do better at that point.”