Panthers make case to move up in Class 3A playoff picture

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There isn’t much questioning the strength of football in the Class 3A Western Slope Conference.

After the 16-team playoff bracket is unveiled Sunday, it’s feasible four teams from the Western Slope will dot the field.

The question then remains: How good is Delta?

Delta (7-3) is often overshadowed in 3A football. But with a ho-hum 35-0 win against Steamboat Springs on Friday, the Panthers secured second place in the league and are almost assured of moving up from 13th in the state’s wildcard standings.

“You get into the playoffs and a lot of it’s matchups,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “We like our kids. Offense and defense, we will go play hard.”

That sums up a dangerous Panthers team. After stumbling out of the gate, outside of Rifle maybe no team has been more impressive. Delta lost to Rifle 21-0 last week, the closest any team has come to the undefeated Bears. The number 21 jumps out. It was more than 22 points lower than Rifle’s season average for points per game.

Delta’s defense was on display Friday. The Panthers held the Sailors to 168 yards of total offense, controlled the clock and won the field-position battle.

After jumping to a 14-0 lead in the first half, the Panthers didn’t have to do anything special on offense.

The backbreaking job came to open the second half. Delta went 66 yards in five plays — all runs — to take a 21-0 lead.

“They’re great against the run, and their pass coverage is good,” Steamboat coach Lonn Clementson said. “Some days the person across from you is bigger, faster and stronger. We ran into that tonight and a lot these last couple of years.”

The Panthers added two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Zach Decker had 114 yards on 16 carries and quarterback Mitchel Whiteside threw for 137 yards and two touchdowns.


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