FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Delano gets a redo with Rocori

After suffering its worst loss of the season at the hands of Rocori on homecomingnight, Delano is looking for payback against the Spartans Friday night in St. Cloud in the Class 4 State Quarterfinals

Matt Kane
Sports Editor

DELANO — It wasn’t much fun at all watching film of the 27-7 homecoming loss to Rocori for the players on the Delano football team. But that film study Tuesday afternoon was a necessary evil those players were happy to endure, as it was part of preparation for Friday night Class 4A State Quarterfinal game against those same Spartans.

“Watching the film, it hurts to watch. It looks like a terrible team that we are not,” said Delano senior Spencer Poll, a lineman on both sides of the football. “As painful as it is, we have to watch the film and learn from it. We will be more prepared for this game.

“After a bad homecoming game, we owe it to the school to win this one. We need to play like a different team than what they saw on homecoming.”

Delano and Rocori will kick off Friday night at 7 p.m. at Husky Stadium at St. Cloud State University after both captured section championships with wins over higher seeded teams.

Seeded No. 3, Delano took down Becker 17-14 in overtime at Monticello High School in what was a snowy Section 6 title game.

Rocori was the No. 2 seed for the Section 8 championship game at Alexandria. The Spartans knocked off top-seeded and previously-unbeaten Detroit Lakes 14-6.

As the lead paragraph states, the upcoming meeting between Delano and Rocori will mark the second time this season the Tigers and Spartans have gotten together on the same football field. The first encounter was Sept. 20 at Tiger Stadium. It was a warm night and the venue was overflowing with fans, as Delano celebrated its homecoming.

Unfortunately for the locals, there wasn’t much to cheer for when it came to the football game. Rocori took a 27-0 lead through three quarters, and settled for a 27-7 win.

The distractions of homecoming never sit right with Delano coach Merrill Pavlovich, but there were more factors that figured into the tough loss. Delano was coming off two weeks of extensive travel, having ventured to Willmar and Moorhead for back-to-back games (both wins), and, more crucial was that the Tigers were playing short-handed due to injuries.

Entering the game, receiver Brett Unrein was out with a knee injury, and linebacker Chris Glunz had one arm in a cast. During the game, two-way lineman Edward Hajas and receiver and defensive back Trey Longstreet were both out with injuries early in the first half.

While it was necessary for the Tigers to relive the game during film study last week, but everybody in that room knows they are fielding a completely different team come Friday night.

“In all fairness, we were not the same team at that point as we are now. With all that travel and homecoming, we weren’t as focused as we should have been,” said Delano coach Merrill Pavlovich. “Everybody is back and we have a chip on our shoulder.”

That chip is escorted by confidence after knocking off Zimmerman and Becker, both of whom were seeded higher than Delano, for the section championship.

“We know it will be a tough game, but we just beat Becker, and Rocori lost to Becker,” said Delano junior running back Robbie Knight. “There is no doubt in our minds that we can beat Rocori. We are confident and we are ready to go.”

What that film from the first game reminded the Tigers is that the Spartan offense is led by senior quarterback Jack Steil.

Committed to play Division 1   baseball at Nebraska following graduation this spring, Steil is an athletic quarterback with athleticism and a rocket arm. In the first game at Delano, he completed eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown, and ran the ball 13 times for 47 yards and two touchdowns.

For the regular season, Steil had thrown for 908 yards and six touchdowns. He has been intercepted four times. On the ground, Steil has run for 655 yards and nine touchdowns.

These numbers don’t look too impressive. What Delano is more concerned with are Steil’s numbers in the section games.

In the win over Detroit Lakes, he completed only one pass for four yards on six throws. On the ground, Steil ran 25 times for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

A week earlier in Rocori’s 30-0 win over Grand Rapids in the semifinals, Steil ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. He completed 3-of-9 passes for 39 yards.

“The QB is an outstanding kid,” said Pavlovich. “He’s carrying the football a lot more than he had been. He’s also playing both sides of the ball, so we are looking for him to wear out as the game goes on.”

Delano and Rocori both lost their regular-season meetings with both Becker and Hutchinson.

For the state tournament, Delano is the No. 3 seed and Rocori is No. 6.

The winner of this game advances on to the semifinal game, which is Friday, Nov. 15, at U.S. Bank Stadium. The opponent will be the winner of Friday night’s quarterfinal game between No. 2 Winona (Section 1) and No. 7 Simley (3).

The last time Delano played at Husky Stadium was a season ago in the state quarterfinals. In what was an ice bowl, with freezing weather and snow smothering the offensive outputs for both teams, the Tigers fell to the SMB Wolfpack 14-7.

SMB went on to win the state championship.

SMB is back to defend its title after winning Section 5. The Wolfpack is seeded No. 4. They open Saturday afternoon against No. 5 Chisago Lakes (7) at Centennial High School.

The other game in that half of the bracket has No. 1 Hutchinson (2) playing No. 8 Fridley (4) Friday night at Hopkins.

Four of the Class 4A teams — Hutchinson, Fridley, SMB and Winona — are undefeated at 10-0.

Simley is 9-1, Rocori 8-2, Delano 7-3 and Chisago Lakes 5-6.

Don’t get fooled by that record for Chisago Lakes, as the Wildcats are the only Class 4A team in the North Central Blue District. Six of the other teams are in Class 5A, and Buffalo is in Class 6A.

With Hutchinson, Delano and Rocori, the Class 4A tournament has three teams from the North Central White District.

A few other teams Delano is quite familiar with are also playing in the state tournament, in their respective classes.

From the old Wright County Conference, Annandale and Dassel-Cokato are in the Class 3 tournament. Moorhead, which Delano defeated 40-34 in Week 3 of this season, is playing in the Class 5 tournament.

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