Bryan must have felt like they were standing in front of a series of earthmovers, just waiting to get plowed under as Delta went around them, over the top of them and bulldozed through the Golden Bears for 281 yards on the ground in a 28-12 triumph to make the Panthers 4-1 on the football season.
Delta is also 2-0 in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League.
“Let’s give a lot of credit to our offensive line tonight,” veteran Panther coach Nate Ruple said. “They made a lot of nice holes for our backs in the middle and did a job on the outside as well.”
It didn’t take all that long to start the engine and get the bulldozer moving, that bulldozer being stout fullback Jerremiah Wolford, as the 225-pound senior capped a five play, 61-yard opening drive by blasting through the middle for a 25-yard scoring burst to give the Panthers a 7-0 margin.
All night long Bryan must have felt like the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football facing the Seattle Seahawks, as they drove into Delta territory, only to be turned away, including three times inside the 10.
Holden Barnes’ sack of quartereback Jase Kepler forced a punt on one Golden Bear drive and Connor Bates killed another with a sack at the Panther 32 later in the second.
After pounding away at the Bears middle and edges, Panther signal caller James Ruple landed a big blow by way of the air when he hit Justin Ruple down the left sideline for a 37-yard scoring strike with 2:42 to go in the second to give Delta a 14-0 lead.
“Give some credit to our quarterback and our receivers for making a big play when we needed one,” said Coach Ruple. “Right before the half to get that one and go up two scores was big.”
The Panthers held that lead when again they rose up defensively in the red zone.
Kepler hit Drew Hahn for 20 and Tayson Dekrosh for 26 more to set Bryan up with a first and goal in the closing seconds.
Kepler got them closer when he nailed Carter Dominique for eight more yards to the one.
That’s when the middle of the Panther defense stuffed Kepler twice trying to sneak in on third and fourth down to preserve the 14-point lead.
That score remained when in the middle of the third Atden Pelz coughed up the ball inside the 10 and the Panthers recovered to stuff Bryan once again.
Wolford made his only mistake of the night when he fumbled on the next play giving the ball back to the Bears, but once again the Seahawk..er, Panther defense came up with a red zone play when Justin Ruple picked off a Kepler pass in the back of the end zone.
“What can you say about our defense,” Ruple, the mentor exclaimed. “Bryan drove the field on us a couple times but when push came to shove our defense stepped up in the red zone quite a few times.”
Bryan got on the board on the first play in the fourth when Kepler connected with Karter Brown from 11 yards out to make it 14-6 but Delta had an answer six plays later.
Again it was Wolford blowing through a gaping hole in the middle for the last 43 yards of a 65-yard drive to extend the Delta lead to 21-6.
One series later the Panthers put the game away when after three runs by Wolford got a first down, Bryar Knapp hit the left edge and delivered the knockout punch with a 36-yard score to make it 28-6.
Brody Devlin returned the following kickoff for a 95-yard score but Bryan never saw the ball again.
Wolford bulled for 139 of the aforementioned 281 yards on the ground on 19 carries.
Knapp hit the century mark with 100 on 10 totes.
“I’m so proud of all our guys,” expressed Coach Ruple. “They are playing hard right now, they work hard every day, they love each other and love playing the game. But it doesn’t get any easier because we follow this with Archbold and into the meat of the NWOAL schedule so we are going to have to stay healthy and keep getting better every week.”
Kepler went 20-30 in the air for 202 yards to pace Bryan’s offense.