Two plays back-to-back captured in a nutshell the kind of game it was at last weekend’s Pumpkin Bowl.
With 6:20 remaining, the Waterford Wolves’ centre snapped the ball over the quarterback’s head into the backfield. A Waterford player fell on it for a 10-yard loss.
On the next play, Waterford tossed an interception that the Delhi Raiders ran back for a touchdown to make the score 42-7 in Delhi’s favour.
That’s how the game ended, settling once and for all who is the dominant team in Norfolk this fall and who has the best shot of winning the county title in November.
Turnovers were the defining characteristic of this game, and we don’t mean the pumpkin spice variety. Four turnovers alone in the first two quarters produced four touchdowns for Delhi, which led by a score of 28-7 at the half.
“We just weren’t getting the ball to the right people,” Wolves’ assistant coach James Osborne said afterward.
“We were out of synch and not executing the way we should have. We absolutely have to work on ball control. It’s one of the things we’ve had trouble with all year. We’ll work on that next week.”
Last Saturday’s game was played under brilliant sunshine in front of a large Pumpkinfest crowd at Waterford District High School.
Both Waterford and Delhi went into the match with perfect regular season records of 3-0. Delhi kept its undefeated streak intact while Waterford will lick its wounds and try to put Saturday’s performance behind it in preparation for this Friday’s semi-final.
The game started promising enough for the home team. After receiving the kickoff from the Raiders, Taye Lovell administered a “punch in the mouth” when he ran a handoff 90-plus yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage.
A quick score in a big game can rock a team but Delhi showed what it’s made of by utterly dominating for the remainder. Jarring, fumble-inducing tackles were a big part of the Raider reply.
“This was a closer game than the score indicated,” said Raiders coach Dave Leatherland. “We benefitted from a number of turnovers. They know that and our guys know that.
“You’re not going to get that many turnovers every game. Despite what the scoreboard said, this game was a grind. The real season begins now. There is no room now for a bad game.”
The Raiders’ Zack Faria administered his fair share of the punishment. Faria said Delhi will go for the interception or knock loose an exposed ball if the opportunity presents itself.
However, Faria said every good player’s first instinct on defence is to make the safe play. That usually involves knocking a pass to the ground or going for the low tackle instead of pawing at a fat pigskin.
“Coach Leatherland expects us to make the best possible play every play,” Faria said. “Our first priority is making the safe play. That said, if you can pick the ball, you go for the pick.”
Delhi’s speedy running back Jacob Schooley notched three touchdowns on the afternoon. Also scoring touchdowns were quarterback Jaxson Zurby, receiver Adam Leatherland and Nathan Dobbie on the interception. Zurby was good on six converts.
The Norfolk semi-finals are slated for Friday at 1 p.m. The Wolves will play host to the Simcoe Sabres while the Raiders will play host to the Holy Trinity Titans in a rematch of this month’s Friday Night Lights event Oct. 11. The winners of both games advance to the Norfolk Bowl Saturday, Nov. 2.