DELANO — Once again, it’s Delano against Becker with survival on the line in the playoffs.
The two will meet Saturday at Tiger Stadium in the semifinals of the Section 6-4A playoffs.
Delano enters the game off a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed. Becker comes to Delano four days after defeating Princeton 42-12 in the quarterfinals.
Actually, the Tigers and Bulldogs haven’t met each other since 2014, when Becker defeated Delano 40-7 in the semifinal round of the Section 5-4A playoffs, it just seems that way for fans who have followed both teams over the past decade-plus.
Dating back to 2004 and including Saturday’s meeting, the two will have met in the section playoffs in eight of the past 14 seasons. Becker has won five of the last seven meetings entering this Saturday.
Delano’s last win over Becker came in the section finals in 2013, a 20-14 decision in Delano. The Tigers went on to play in the state semifinals that year, falling to Hutchinson 35-19 in what was the final year of the Metrodome.
Following the win over Delano in 2014, Becker went on to win the state title with a 34-6 win over DeLaSalle at TCF Bank Stadium.
In 2012, following a 21-13 win over Delano in the Section 5-4A championship game, Becker made it to the state semifinals, where it lost to Hutchinson.
This year’s game between the Tigers and Bulldogs will feature two 1,000-yard club members, both of whom have had elite games.
Delano senior receiver Calvin Wishart has a state-leading 1,251 receiving yards and 156 yards-per-game average. He has 13 touchdown catches.
Wishart’s signature game came in Delano’s 50-20 win at Litchfield in Week 7, when he caught 10 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He also has a pair of 200-yard receiving games, and has surpassed the 100-yard mark in six of eight games.
On the ground, Becker senior Sidney Boros enters the game with 1,280 yards and nine touchdowns. He has six 100-yard rushing games, including the playoff game against Princeton, when he ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries.
The two touchdowns against Princeton came on runs of 80 and 51 yards in the second quarter.
Boros’ best game of the season came in Week 5 in a 37-20 win at Big Lake, where he ran for 265 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. In an 8-6 loss at Willmar in Week 7, Boros ran for 203 yards and one touchdown.
In the playoff win over Princeton, Becker ran for 281 yards and four touchdowns.
Alex Blomgren was more of the workhorse for the Bulldogs Tuesday night, toting the football 15 times for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Becker quarterback Josh Fobbe spent most of the night handing the ball off, 37 times. Fobbe went to the air eight times, completing five passes for 55 yards and one touchdown.
For the season, Fobbe has 13 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. His best performance came in a 56-44 win at Chisago Lakes in Week 1, when he threw for 249 yards and four touchdowns. Fobbe threw five touchdown passes against Princeton during the regular-season meeting in a 56-0 win.
While Wishart’s name sits atop the state’s receiving leader board for yards and yards-per-game, Delano can still run the ball, and has done so with great success through its eighth regular-season games.
A big game Saturday could enter junior halfback Sam Kern into the 1,000 yards club. Kern comes in with 882 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
Complimenting Kern’s speed game with power is junior fullback Caden Link, who has 498 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground for the Tigers.
The guy handing the ball to Kern and Link and throwing it to Wishart is senior quarterback Mike Shoultz, who is enjoying one of the best seasons for a Delano quarterback.
Shoultz has thrown for 1,285 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has 10 interceptions.
Of course, all the memorable battles between the Tigers and Bulldogs are made more so by the two men on the sidelines, both of whom are in their fourth decade in leading their respective teams into battle.
According to the Minnesota Football Coaches Association, Delano’s Merrill Pavlovich is in his 42nd season with the Tigers, and enters with a 298-139 record. That ranks him sixth all-time in Minnesota for coaching wins.
Standing across from Pavlovich Saturday night will be Becker’s Dwight Lundeen, who is in his 47th season, and enters with a 353-152-3 record. That ranks him third all-time in victories.
Lundeen was inducted in the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame this past Sunday.
The winner of Saturday’s game between Delano and Becker advances to the Section 6-4A championship game, which is Saturday, Nov. 4, at Monticello High School.
Also playing in that title game will be either No. 1 seed Zimmerman (8-0) or No. 4 Big Lake (4-5), which knocked off Foley 35-7 Tuesday in the quarterfinals.
Zimmerman hosts Big Lake Saturday night.