Created: Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:14:00 MST
Updated: Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:27:30 MST
DELTA, Colo. -- Welcome to the jungle that is the 2014 Delta Panthers football schedule. One week after defeating #6 Classical Academy 27-22 in zero week, the Panthers face an even more daunting task -- the 4A second-ranked Montrose Indians.
The Panthers entered the 2014 season with the #1 ranking in 3A, and were put to the test right off the bat with a close win against the Classical Academy Titans.
The official week one begins Friday as the Panthers host rival Montrose. The Indians are coming off a 41-15 blowout over 5A Grand Junction High School, and the Panthers are well aware of the importance of Friday night's game.
"I would say it's really big. We haven't beat them in awhile. It'll be a great game. Plus, we get home field advantage," said Jonny Ponce, Delta's Junior running back.
"Our rivalry died just because of the way Montrose was advancing, and we kept falling back, and it wasn't until last year when they realized -- and everybody realized -- 'Oh hey, Delta's back. They can compete with these guys,'" said Cade Gafford, Delta's Senior quarterback.
"It's a big game because they're only 20 miles apart, and Montrose has great tradition, and we're still building," said Ben Johnson, head coach of Delta football.
Still building? The Panthers made it to last year's state semifinal game, falling to Silver Creek 28-17.
The 2014 Panthers, led by Gafford and Ponce, won't be satisfied with just making a deep playoff run again this year. They want that state title, but they'll have to make it through one of the tougher schedules in the state to do so.
"It's actually pretty exciting, because we hadn't made it to the final four in a long time. It's one of those things where you're so close, you can taste that state championship. I think coming back in we're excited to get to that point. I think we have the team and the players with the mindsets to do it," said Gafford.
"Our schedule is really tough, our league is really tough. We started with Classical [Academy], and then Montrose is sort of the big dog on the block. Then you get into the Rifles, and the Palisades, the Glenwoods, and it's a very good, strong football league. I think everyone's goal is just to get into the playoffs, because once you're in, I think coming out of this league, anything can happen," said Johnson.
The Panthers play possibly their biggest game of the year Friday, August 29th at 7:00pm at Delta High School.