By: Forrest R. Church, Publisher
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
BUCYRUS, OHIO – It is not often that a number one seed is eliminated in the first round of the Ohio playoffs by an eighth seed. More times than not this match up in the first round of playoff games in Ohio is extremely lopsided. The higher seed often uses round one as a preparation for harder forthcoming second and third rounds games while the lower seed often goes home with valuable experience for next year.
It appeared Saturday’s affair in rural Bucyrus would be no different. The 6-4 Delta Panthers who finished in the middle of the pack of the NWOAL was matched up against the host and heavily favored 9-1 Wynford Royals. After losing their first game of the season to Liberty Benton 17-14, the Royals came into the playoffs winning nine straight games, also claiming the N-10 Championship.
Despite coming into the playoffs on a hot streak, Wynford coach Gabe Helbert warned all week that the Delta would present the Royals with the toughest test of the year. “People might look at the 6-4 record and wonder why they are in the playoffs,” Helbert said. “They lost to two 9-1 teams, including state powers Patrick Henry and Liberty Center. 6-4 does not mean anything, they are an excellent football team.”
Wynford quickly marched down the field to begin the game, taking an 8-0 lead on a 13 yard scoring scamper. Delta’s offense stalled early in the contest and as Wynford approached knocking a second drive into the endzone to take a commanding two touchdown lead. Anyone who has atteneded a handful of “1 Seed vs 8 Seed” playoff contests could sense the fat lady might just be warming up her vocals as the game could easily have become a blowout.
That second touchdown proved not to happen as the Panthers dug deep and on a fourth and goal from the two yard line Delta stopped the Royals to reclaim the ball and game momentum that immediately sparked the Panther offense (momentum that would last the rest of the contest). Post game interviews recognized the momentum shift on this one play as Wynford Coach Gabe Helbert stated post game, “It’s on me. We needed to score on fourth down. It’s 100 percent on me” referencing play calling.
Delta’s offense immediately picked up where the defense left off. The Panthers marched down the field on a powerful rushing attack that found Delta runners dragging Royal defenders for extra yards along the way. Panther Storholder would put DHS on the board with a six yard touchdown run that would bring the Panthers into one point, Delta trailing 8-7 at the half.
Delta dominated the third and early stages of the fourth quarter with its running attack, not only adding up yards but controlling the clock and keeping a dangerous Wynford offense off the field. Delta used a 12 play drive tallying 78 yards that would find Panther Jesse Beverly finding the endzone as Delta took their first lead of the game 14-8 in the third. Beverly added a three-yard scamper in the fourth to take a commanding 21-8 lead.
Host Wynford did not come into the game with one of the best records in the area for nothing as the Royals fought back and positioned themselves for a late game win. A 40 yard run by QB Zach Hoffman placed Wynford deep into Panther territory with Royal Hoffman scoring from seven yards out to pull the Wynford to within 21-15 with 6:49 to play in the contest.
Wynford was faced with the decision to onside kick or kickoff and play defense, choosing the latter, a decision that worked as the Royals defense turned up the pressure. Delta’s attempts to run the clock out failed, as the Panthers punted setting up a potential game winning drive for Wynford with plenty of time on the clock.
The Royals drove deep into Panther territory though doing so extremely slow, using most of the remaining time in the game, needing a touchdown and an extra point needed to secure the victory. But like prior game battles deep in Panther territory on this chilly November evening, Delta’s defense bogged down, this time finding Panther Dustin Marteney intercepting a Hoffman pass with just a few ticks left on the clock to seal the Delta win.
Delta committed heavily to the run game in the contest with 33 rushes in the second half. This strategy worked perfectly as the Panthers kept Wynford off the field in the second half, only allowing the Royals to claim 16 plays.
“It is on me,” Royals coach Gabe Helbert said after the game. “That game is on me. We did not punt when we should have and we were going to stick with what we have done all year and credit Delta, they stopped us. You have to score on fourth and one. It was an opportunity to put them down two scores and really take them out of their comfort zone.”
The Wynford Royals managed 311 yards of total offense but put only claimed 15 points.
Beverly was the difference maker for Delta, finishing with 29 carries (20 in the second half) for 166 yards and two touchdowns. Bailey Storholder contributed 10 carries for 45 yards and a touchdown. Dylan Rogers finished the rushing attack with eight carries and 36 yards.
With the win Delta’s record improves to 7-4 on the season. The Panthers will now prepare to battle Van Buren who will come into the affair with an 8-3 record. The Wynford Royals finished their 2015 campaign 9-2.
Forrest R. Church may be reached at email@example.com