Panthers ride momentum in OT victory

BROOMFIELD — It wasn’t Delta football coach Ben Johnson’s plan to get into a track meet with Holy Family on Saturday afternoon.

But after one quarter, that’s exactly what happened to the 13th-seeded Panthers against the fourth-seeded Tigers.

If anything, Delta had established itself on offense during the first 12 minutes, and ultimately that proved to be the difference in a 42-41 overtime thriller at Mike G. Gabriel Stadium in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs.

“It was back and forth with a lot of emotions, big plays on both sides, and they played a tremendous game,” said Johnson, whose team will travel to Glenwood Springs in the quarterfinals to try to avenge a 15-7 regular-season loss. Glenwood Springs, seeded 12th, downed fifth-seeded Elizabeth 14-13.

Johnson said he knew the game probably was going to go down to the wire.

“We figured whoever made the last play of the game would probably win the game, and it was a great one,” he said.

It doesn’t hurt to get a few breaks, too.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Panthers were down 35-28 and were on their heels defensively with Holy Family driving. Then, the Panthers got their break. Tigers quarterback David Sommers completed a pass over the middle to Bryce Buderus, but the sophomore coughed up the ball, and Tyler Sandoval was there to fall on it.

The Panthers (8-3) then went 78 yards in 13 plays over a six-minute stretch, including a huge 15-yard completion on third-and-14 from Cade Gafford to Devin Williams. Delta tied it at 35-35 and forced overtime on Sandoval’s third score of the day.

Delta got the ball first in overtime, starting from the 10-yard line and immediately was sent back 10 yards when Jasiel Garcia was called for a hold. Two Gafford incompletions later, the Panthers were faced with third-and-20. No problem.

Gafford, who finished 12 of 26 for 185 yards and two touchdowns, threw a ball up to Ryan Whiteside and allowed the 6-foot-3 receiver to go up and get it for a 20-yard TD. Whiteside went over Sommers and hauled in the pass for his second touchdown.

“(Cade) just threw a great ball, and we are really good in crunch time,” said Whiteside, who finished with seven catches for 132 yards. “It was the right ball at the right time, and I went up and got it. I knew what I had to do.”

Said Johnson: “We were in a real bad position, so we just figured: Toss it up and let our best guy go up and get it, and that’s what he did.”

Abraham Ontiveros converted the all-important extra point to give the Panthers a 42-35 lead.

Ontiveros joined the football team after a successful soccer season in which the Panthers were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.

Holy Family (8-2) used three runs by Sommers to get into the end zone and then elected to go for the tie, but kicker Marco Lonardo missed wide right, and the Panthers celebrated.

“That’s the choice you make, and you go with what happens,” Holy Family coach Mike D. Gabriel said.

Delta sophomore running back Jonny Ponce, who left the game late with an injury, finished with 208 yards on 24 carries. Derek Horn came in late in the fourth quarter and picked up big yards in the final drive, finishing with 45 yards on eight carries.

Sommers finished with 217 yards rushing on 31 carries and completed 13 of 24 passes for 291 yards and two scores.


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