DELANO — Delano is reeling for a win this week after suffering losses the past two weeks.
The Tigers hope to find that win Friday night at home against Litchfield.
A 13-8 loss at Annandale last Friday night evened Delano’s record at 3-3. That loss came on the heels of a 35-20 homecoming loss to Dassel-Cokato.
Litchfield is also 3-3. The Dragons are coming off a 53-14 slaying of Watertown-Mayer.
“You can throw the records out, these games are always battles,” said Litchfield coach Jim Jackson. “Coach Pav does a great job getting his kids ready to play.”
The win over Watertown-Mayer ended a losing streak at three games for Litchfield.
Delano and Litchfield are even against like-opponents. Both have defeated Holy Family and lost to both Dassel-Cokato and Annandale.
“Delano, traditionally, is a strong team. They are coached extremely well and play tough, physical football,” said Jackson. “It should be a great night, playing on a turf field, with the improvement their district has made.”
In last week’s loss at Annandale, the wet weather conditions were not favorable for Delano’s passing game, which gained a season-low 102 yards on Max Otto’s 12-for-26 day passing. Otto was held without a passing touchdown for the first time all season.
For the season, Otto has thrown for 15 touchdowns and 1,312 yards.
The weather is forecasted to be dry Friday night at Tiger Stadium, meaning there should be no problem with gripping the football for Otto and his receivers or footing on the synthetic turf for the running games of both teams.
Following in line with Holy Family’s Jacob Zay, Dassel-Cokato’s Paul Raisanen and Annandale’s Peyton Fobbe, Delano will once again face an athletic quarterback in Litchfield’s Brandt Pederson.
“Their QB has size and is an excellent runner,” Delano coach Merrill Pavlovich said of Pederson.
The Dragons’ senior leader likes to use his legs more than his arm. Pederson leads the team with 505 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 64 attempts. That’s a 7.9 yards-per-carry average.
Pederson has just 23 pass completions for the season in six games, for 288 yards. He has as many interceptions (3) as touchdown passes.
Pederson’s backup, sophomore Ben Asleben, has been much more efficient throwing the football.
For the season in four games under center, Asleben has completed 19-of-26 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. He has one interception.
Fourteen different receivers have caught passes from either Pederson or Asleben.
Alex Graunke has six receptions for 100 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Dragons.
As for the ground game, when Pederson isn’t carrying the football himself, he is usually handing it off to Logan Nelson.
Nelson has 410 yards and four touchdown on 85 carries.
Nelson is coming of 159 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Watertown-Mayer.
“A lot like Annandale — excellent size up front and three experienced backs,” Pavlovich said of Litchfield’s ground game.
The third back is Isaac Rick, who has 92 yards on 28 carries in five games.
The Delano running game has produced only one 100-yard runner all season. That was senior Sam Kern, who went for 123 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers’ Week 2 40-0 win over Little Falls.
The running game is feeling the effects of injuries to starting guard Carson vanSytzama and tight end Chris Glunz. Both went down with serious injuries in the win at Holy Family.
Delano did have defensive end Isaiah McManus back for the Annandale game. He, too, was injured in the Holy Family game.
Kern leads Delano’s ground game with 388 yards on 80 carries (4.8) for the season.
Kern and senior fullback Caden Link both have three touchdown runs.
Link has 184 yards on 36 carries (5.1). His top game was 89 yards and a touchdown in the 41-10 Week 3 win over Glencoe-Silver Lake.
Delano’s leading receiver, Brett Unrein, has 20 catches for 310 yards and one touchdown.
Unrein was held without a catch last week at Annandale.
Coach Jackson knows the best way to defeat Delano is to limit its time with the football.
“For our standpoint, we just need to control the ball and eliminate mistakes,” Jackson said.
With just two weeks of the regular season remaining, it’s not too early to look at the playoff picture.
Delano currently sits third, according to its QRF rank (24) in Section 6-4A, behind Zimmerman (17) and Big Lake (18).
“The importance of the game is that it directly impacts section seeding. Winning the next two games still gives Delano a chance at home field for the semifinals and a first-round bye,” said Pavlovich. “The results of the other games this Friday will provide section seeding clarity.”
Foley (36), Becker (37) and Princeton (45) round out the bottom three.
At 4-2, Zimmerman is the only section team with a winning record.
Big Lake and Delano are both 3-3; Foley and Becker are both 2-4; and Princeton is 0-6.
Following this Friday night’s games, the turnaround to the next game is shorts. Thanks to MEA week, the Week 8 games are Wednesday, Oct. 17. Delano plays at Watertown-Mayer.