DELANO — Delano will roll into the Section 6-4A playoffs off a seven-game winning streak thanks to a 26-6 home win over Watertown-Mayer Wednesday night at Tiger Stadium.
The overmatched Royals (1-7), whose roster is thin, gave the host Tigers (7-1) a battle early, as the game went scoreless until midway through the second quarter.
Delano scored two touchdowns in that second quarter and one each in the third and fourth.
“It was a focus thing. We came in thinking we would dominate them. It took the first two quarters to get it rolling,” said senior safety Jack Paulson, who had a big interception that led to the Tigers’ first touchdown. “We got the W and it’s on to sections now.”
The Tigers broke the ice with 6:20 to play in the first half, on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Mike Shoultz.
The missed extra-point left Delano with a 6-0 lead.
Shoultz’s touchdown run came on the ninth play of a 27-yard drive. The short field came courtesy of Paulson’s interception and 54-yard return.
“That was probably the best feeling I’ve had in a long time. That feeling is just great,” said Paulson of the pick. “Then, having the offense score and finish the play was amazing.”
Watertown-Mayer answered the Delano touchdown run with a drive that took the ball to the Tigers’ 15-yard line. The drive stalled with no points when a field-goal attempt by Derrick Bakke shot to the left of the goal post.
The Tigers made the missed field goal hurt more with a touchdown drive that covered 80 yards in just five plays.
The trip down the field was made quick by receiver Calvin Wishart, who caught a 44-yard pass from Max Otto on a halfback pass, and two plays later, caught a 37-yard touchdown pass from Shoultz.
The conversion failed, and Delano took a 12-0 lead into halftime.
The Tigers scored a touchdown in each of the final two quarters. Caden Link ran the ball in from three yards out with three minutes to play in the third quarter, and Camden Tschudi scored on a three-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Delano’s post-touchdown woes continued all game. The only extra points the Tigers scored came on a pass from Shoultz to Wishart following the Tschudi touchdown.
At the request of the Watertown-Mayer coaches, the fourth quarter was played under a running clock. The only question about that final quarter was whether or not the Tiger defense could pick up the shutout, which would have been the first of the season.
The Royals put an end to that thought with a 62-yard drive that came on the heels of Tschudi’s touchdown.
A pass completion from Jackson Lague to Mason Pothen covered 30 yards of the 11-play drove. A six-yard pass from Lague to fullback Zac Neaton resulted in the touchdown.
The extra-point kick by Bakke was blocked, settling the score at 26-6.
Delano’s defense was stingy all night, limiting the Royals to 180 yards of offense. Pothen had 67 yards receiving for Watertown-Mayer.
The lead Tigers were seniors Steven Hajas and Jacob McDonald, both of whom made 10 tackles.
Hajas had a quarterback sack, as well. His 10 tackles gives him 109 for the season, ranking him second in the state.
“Defensively, I thought we did alright,” said Delano coach Merrill Pavlovich. “Offensively, at times we moved the ball. I thought we could throw the ball a lot more than we did.”
The offensive success for Delano came on the ground, where five runners combined for 238 yards and three touchdowns on 45 carries.
Junior Sam Kern led the Tigers with 86 yards on 12 carries.
The Tigers threw for 125 yards, and finished with 363 total yards of offense.
Only two receivers caught passes for the Tigers.
Wishart caught seven passes for 121 yards and the touchdown. Christopher Glunz caught one ball for four yards.
Wishart passed the 1,000 yards mark five days earlier, with a 303-yard night in a win at Litchfield. His performance Wednesday night increased his state-leading receiving numbers to 1,251 yards and a 156 yards-per-game average. Wishart’s 13 touchdown catches is fourth best.
To put into perspective how impressive Wishart’s single season has been, consider his 1,251 yards on 52 catches is just four yards less than the 1,255 yards Kraft gained on 53 catches during his junior and senior seasons combined.
Thanks to his brother-like connection with Wishart, Shoultz, too, is moving up the Delano passing list.
Shoultz’s second-quarter touchdown pass to Wishart gives him 25 career touchdown passes, which is one more than Toby Hanson threw for in two season (2012-2013).
Hanson’s career passing yards mark of 2,139 yards is also in jeopardy. After throwing for 81 yards Wednesday, Shoultz is 10 yards shy with 2,129 yards in two seasons.
Shoultz’s has 1,285 yards passing and 17 touchdowns for the season. He sits just 151 yards shy of the single-season mark of 1,436 passing yards thrown by Hanson during that 2013 campaign, and is one touchdown pass shy of Cody Mathisen’s 18 thrown in 2011.
(The Hanson and Mathisen statistics are tops for statistics found online, dating back to 2008. They are not official records.)
While these individual numbers are impressive, coach Pavlovich made sure his players know football is a team game.
“I told our kids, ‘We are a good football team.’ In the huddle, I told them that everybody made contributions. It wasn’t about Calvin’s big year or Kern having a big year or Mikey Shoultz, everyone made a valid contribution to allow those things to happen,” the coach said. “It’s still all about team.”
The team effort helped Delano recover from a less-than-impressive first half.
The Royals made things difficult for the Tiger offense early via the two first-quarter interceptions on passes intended for Wishart.
Pothen intercepted both passes. He picked off an overthrown ball on Delano’s first play from scrimmage, and, later in the quarter, was in the right place when Jake Hanley broke up a pass to Wishart at the goal line.
I’ve got a lot of respect for Watertown,” said Pavlovich. “With that number of kids, I thought those kids were well-prepared and they played hard.”
For Delano, which received the No. 2 seed for the section tournament, it is time to relax.
“I gave the kids four days off. I’m going fishing. I don’t care what they do, just get away from football for four days, and get away from me,” said Pavlovich. “Come back Monday ready to go.”
Delano will play either No. 3 Becker (4-4) or No. 6 Princeton (0-8) Saturday, Oct. 28, at home at 7 p.m.
Zimmerman (8-0), which handed Delano its only loss of the season on Week 1, is the No. 1 seed and also has a bye Tuesday night. The Thunder will host either No. 4 Big Lake (3-5) or No. 5 Foley (2-6).
What’s nice about not playing Tuesday is we have a full week to prepare. Those teams playing on Tuesday will have to play on Saturday, and that’s a lot of football,” said Pavlovich. “This sequence of Wednesday-Tuesday-Saturday is a lot of football.”
DELANO 26, Watertown-Mayer 6
Wednesday, Oct. 18
Delano High School
1 2 3 4 – F
Watertown 0 0 0 6 – 6
Delano 0 12 6 8 – 26
D – Shoultz 1-yard run (kick failed), 6-0
D – Shoultz 37-yard pass to Wishart (run failed), 12-0
D – Link 3-yard run (kick failed), 18-0
D – Tschudi 3-yard run (Shoultz pass to Wishart), 26-0
WM – Lague 7-yard pass to Neaton (kick blocked), 26-6
TEAM Total Yards: Delano 363; Watertown-Mayer 180. Rushing: Delano 45-238 3TD; Watertown-Mayer 27-71. Passing: Delano 8/14-125 TD 2INT; Watertown-Mayer 11/17-109 TD INT.
INDIVIDUALS Rushing: Delano — Kern 12-86, Link 19-76 TD, Shoultz 5-39 TD, Gerecke 5-30, Tschudi 4-7 TD; Watertown-Mayer — Neaton 4-29, Nolan 9-28, Entinger 8-18, Lague 1-2, Nowlan 4-1, Dulas 1–7. Passing: Delano — Shoultz 7/13-81 TD 2INT, Otto 1/1-44; Watertown-Mayer — Lague 7/12-71 TD INT, Dulas 3/4-25, Nolan 1/1-13. Receiving: Delano — Wishart 7-121 TD, Glunz 1-4; Watertown-Mayer — Pothen 5-67, Neaton 2-15 TD, Hanley 1-14, Entinger 1-8, Nolan 2-5. Tackles: Delano — Hajas 10, McDonald 10; Watertown-Mayer — Juusola 10. QB Sacks: Delano — Hajas. Interceptions: Delano — Paulson; Watertown-Mayer — Pothen 2.