Shoultz-Wishart connect for huge game
LITCHFIELD — With the score at 22-20 at halftime, the battle was on between Delano and Litchfield Oct. 13 at the home of the Dragons.
So it seemed.
The first half shootout between the Tigers and Dragons did not carry into the second half, as Delano completely dominated the final 24 minutes of game clock.
Delano’s defense did not give up a single point and limited Litchfield to 24 yards in the second half. The Tiger offense, on the other hand, scored 28 second-half points en route to a 50-20 win.
Litchfield’s offense ran just 15 plays on four possessions in the second half. The Dragons punted twice, turned the ball over on downs once, and had the fourth drive stopped by the end of the game.
Litchfield’s offense gained 217 yard of offense for the game.
“In the second half, we came out pretty focused. We made some subtle adjustments,” Delano coach Merrill Pavlovich said of his defense. “We lost our starting safety (Ethan Quast), but I thought (Trey) Longstreet came in and did a nice job in the secondary for us. A couple guys were playing out of position and I think they all made some good adjustments.”
Delano’s defense was certainly dominant in that second half, but it received a big hand in the half from the offense, which ran 39 plays on four possessions, all four ending with a touchdown.
The Delano offense was balanced in both halves. The Tigers put up 542 yards total — 261 in the first half and 281 in the second half. For the game, Delano ran for 216 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Mike Shoultz threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns. He was intercepted twice.
Shoultz’s main target, as usual, was his best friend, Calvin Wishart, who caught 10 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns.
Shoultz knows he and Wishart are looked at first because of statistics, but, as good leaders do, the quarterback made sure to give credit to the guys who deserve it.
“I think I have to give a lot of credit to our defense. In the first half, they started shaky, but they really picked it up in the second half and gave us good field position,” he said. “Big credit to the defense, and the offensive line; they dominated up front.
“It all starts up front. Everyone looks at the touchdowns between Calvin and I, but that cannon happen if it’s not there up front. They really won the game for us.”
Wishart entered the game at Litchfield off a quiet three-catch, 35-yard, one-touchdown performance a week earlier in a win over Annandale. He was plenty loud against the Dragons with touchdown catches of 23, 65 and 72 yards.
The big game upped Wishart’s state-leading statistics to 1,130 receiving yards and 161 yards per game on 45 catches.
“He brings that ingredient to the team we can’t duplicate. He has great hands and he runs great routes, now. He ran every route tonight the way we wanted him to,” Pavlovich said following the game at Litchfield. “Plus, when the ball is in the air, his philosophy is that the ball belongs to him. He is very competitive.”
Sitting in a distant second place on both receiving leader boards is New Ulm’s Connor Foley, who has 997 yards and a 142 yards-per-game average on 42 catches.
The three touchdown catches runs Wishart’s season total to 12, which ranks him fourth. Cleveland/Immanual Lutheran’s Austin Plonsky leads the state with 15 touchdowns.
The performance at Litchfield moved Wishart atop the Delano list of best single-season performances by a receiver, and he is now the first Tiger receiver ever to reach the 1,000 yards receiving mark.
“I think it’s pretty cool. I didn’t care too much about getting it, I just wanted to win games, but it is cool that I am in the 1,000 club for the football team and the 1,000 club for the basketball team,” Wishart said. “It’s a pretty good accomplishment.”
Wishart sits second in career scoring for basketball with 1,519 points through his junior season. Just seven points in front is Toby Hanson with 1,526 points.
On the football field, Wishart moved above Adam Kraft, who accumulated 882 yards and 11 touchdowns during the Tigers’ run to the state tournament in 2013.
It’s no secret, Delano has been a heavy, run-first offense for four decades under coach Merrill Pavlovich, but, to put into perspective how impressive Wishart’s single season is, consider his 1,130 yards is just 125 yards less than the 1,255 yards Kraft gained on 53 catches during his junior and senior seasons combined.
“They shouldn’t (think that),” said Shoultz of teams that see Delano as a run-heavy team. “But, when I see them came out here and have single coverage on him, they must think we are a run first team. We will exploit that.”
It’s hard to imagine opponents not respecting the state’s leading receiver, but the Tigers saw it at Litchfield, in what was the seventh week of the season.
“If you saw what they were doing, they were rolling eight guys up in the box. That makes it difficult for us to run but that means we have some people who are going to be open,” said Pavlovich. “What can you say about Calvin, throw it up there and he goes and gets it.”
Of course, for a receiver to have an unprecedented season as Wishart is, someone needs to get him the football. That someone for Delano just happens to be Wishart’s best friend, Shoultz.
“That’s my boy. Number 9-to-10. He’s my best friend — we hook up on the football field and hang out off the field. It’s a fun time,” Wishart said of his relationship with Shoultz. “I tell him, ‘Throw it to me and I am going to get it, and we are gonna make each other look good.’
“We’ve only played one year together, but it feels like 20 years. Our chemistry is really good.”
Shoultz has 1,204 yards passing and 16 touchdowns for the season.
The big game at Litchfield for Shoultz came on the same field from where he was carted off and taken by an ambulance after suffering a scary concussion just one season ago. The senior took note of the oddity that Delano would play at Litchfield two seasons in a row, but used the return visit as motivation.
“When I saw the schedule come out, I just thought it was strange. I came out here and saw the 30-yard line and just kind of looked and thought, ‘Not this year.’ I just had the mind-set that it was going to be different this year,” he said. “I was happy to be back, actually. I wanted to use it as a revenge game.”
Delano lost the game a season ago, 22-7. Shoultz threw for just 84 yards and the Tiger offense compiled just 137 total yards before the game was stopped with time remaining on the fourth-quarter clock by Shoultz’s injury.
At this year’s visit to Litchfield, Shoultz and Wishart first hooked up for a touchdown early in the second quarter on the fifth play of a 62-yard drive. As he has done all season, Wishart won the jump ball for a 23-yard touchdown catch. After a failed extra-point kick, the Tigers led 14-7.
Litchfield answered back and tied the game, 14-14, with a 46-yard touchdown connection from Matthew Wedin to Alex Graunke and the extra point kick by Wedin.
It took just one play for Shoultz and Wishart to reply to the Dragons’ fire. On the first play of the ensuing possession, Shoultz hit Wishart on a quick hitch to the left and then watched his friend dice through the defense for a 65-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
The two-point run by Caden Link gave Delano a 22-14 lead.
“I told Mike that if it was a shootout, like it was in the first half, ‘this is our type of football,’” said Wishart.
The shootout continued, as Litchfield answered the seventh play of its ensuing possession, this time Wedin connecting with Zach Kaizer for a 12-yard touchdown.
Delano’s defense came up big when it stopped Litchfield’s two-point try, and the Tigers took the two-points, 22-20, lead into halftime.
The Tigers may have soaked up any momentum the Dragons hoped to gain with that late, first-half touchdown with their 18-play, 90-yard drive on the first possession of the second half.
The 18th play was a five-yard touchdown strike from Shoultz to Christopher Glunz on a fourth down play.
Shoultz’s two-point run gave the Tigers a 30-20 lead, and the second-half route was on.
The 72-yard touchdown pass from Shoultz to Wishart came 19 seconds into the fourth quarter, on the seventh play of a drive that bridged the final two frames. The play was a thing of beauty, Shoultz’s deep pass over the middle perfectly leading Wishart who had gotten behind the defense. The two-point run failed, and Delano led 36-20.
Touchdown runs from David Gerecke and Joey Colanino finished the scoring for the Tigers. Gerecke scored on a three-yard run, and following the Tigers’ second batch of offensive linemen, Colanino scored on a shifty 17-yard run with 53 seconds remaining in the game. Link followed both scores with successful extra-point kicks.
Colanino’s touchdown capped what was actually a come-from-behind win for the Tigers. The first lead of the game belonged to the host Dragons, who marched the field in front of the homecoming crowd and went up 7-0 on the 13th play of the opening drive. Fullback Isaac Rick capped the 56-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. Wedin’s kick made it 7-0.
Shoultz and Wishart connected for the first time in the game on Delano’s first play, an 18-yard pass, but it was the legs of junior running back Sam Kern that answered the Dragon’s score.
Kern took the Tigers’ second play from scrimmage 51 yards to the end zone. The two-point run from Link gave Delano an 8-7 lead with four minutes to play in the first quarter.
Seemingly overshadowed every game by Wishart, Kern continued his excellence in the ground game, rushing for 110 yard and the one touchdown on just 10 carries.
DELANO 50, LITCHFIELD 20
Friday, Oct. 13
Litchfield High School
1 2 3 4 – F
Delano 8 14 8 20 – 50
Litchfield 7 13 0 0 – 20
4:49: L – Rick 1-yard run (Wedin kick), 7-0
4:14: D – Kern 51-yard run (Link run), 7-8
9:42: D – Shoultz 23-yard pass to Wishart (kick failed), 7-14
7:35: L – Wedin 46-yard pass to Graunke (Wedin kick), 14-14
7:16: D – Shoultz 65-yard pass to Wishart (Link run), 14-22
0:45: L – Wedin 12-yard pass to Kaizer (run failed), 20-22
6:16: D Shoultz 5-yard pass to Glunz (Shoultz run), 20-30
11:41: D – Shoultz 72-yard pass to Wishart (run failed), 20-36
6:15: D – Gerecke 3-yard run (Link kick), 20-43
0:53: D – Colanino 17-yard run (Link kick), 20-50
TEAM Total Yards: Delano 542. Rushing: Delano 37-216 3TD. Passing: Delano 15/21-326 4TD 2INT.
INDIVIDUALS Rushing: Delano — Kern 10-110 TD, Link 11-38, Colanino 2-32 TD, Gerecke 7-22 TD, Shoultz 3-6, Tschudi 3-5, McCune 1-3. Passing: Delano — Shoultz 15/20-326 4TD 2INT; Otto 0-1. Receiving: Delano — Wishart 10-303 3TD, Hart 1-8, Kramp 2-8, Glunz 2-7 TD. Tackles: Delano — Hajas 10, Hart 8. QB Sacks: Delano — McManus, Hart.