Tall tales: Panthers ‘enormously tall’
When Delta takes the football field for its season opener at Gunnison on Aug. 31, there will likely be some people in the crowd who mention boys basketball.
They’re that tall.
“Oh my gosh, our team is enormously tall,” Delta coach Ben Johnson said. “We look like a basketball team coming out. But we’ve got leverage issues.”
Mitchell Whiteside, a three-year starter at quarterback, is 6-foot-3.
Tight end Douglas Hawkins, wide receiver Ryan Whiteside, defensive lineman Kyle Collins and defensive back Ryan Whiteside all are 6-3.
Sophomore tight end Ian Baier is 6-5.
Look for Whiteside to throw jump balls to receivers.
“We tell Mitchell, ‘Don’t underthrow anything,’ ” Johnson said.
An advantage Delta will have on some opponents is Johnson has been coaching this year’s 18 seniors since they were freshman.
“That freshman class was a good class,” Johnson said. “We only lost a couple along the way, which was nice, and they stuck together. They’re a pretty close-knit group and all good friends, and I think their closeness as a group will help us a great deal this year.”
One position up for grabs is at tight end, where Hawkins, Dakota Proctor and Baier will compete for the position. Johnson said the starting position will be awarded to the playmaker.
“Whoever can catch the ball and block the edge will be the person to earn that position,” he said.
Four years ago, when Johnson arrived at Delta, the Panthers were .500. The next year, the Panthers went 9-3 and qualified for the state playoffs.
The Panthers are solid on the offensive side of the ball, Johnson said, with their tall receivers and experienced quarterback.
Conversely, the defense will be led by senior linebacker Robert Williams, a 6-2, 200-pound all-conference senior.
“He’s real strong, and he’s fast,” Johnson said of Williams. “He had a great camp at Colorado Mesa. Those coaches really liked him. He’s just a goer. He never takes a play off.”