There’s no way to make the stakes of tonight’s game any simpler.
If the Delta football team can pull an upset against Class 4A No. 8 Mt. Vernon (Fortville), the Eagles control their own destiny in the Hoosier Heritage Conference title race. If Delta fails, the Marauders can celebrate their league crown on the field at Delta Stadium.
And the key to slowing Mt. Vernon will start with corralling the running game.
“They’re going to be packed in tight on offense,” Delta coach Grant Zgunda said. “They don’t spread you out at all, and they’re going to run the ball right at you. That’s pretty much the bottom line for the game.”
The Marauders boast the top scoring offense in 4A with 46.3 points per game, and the defense ranks ninth at 16.7 points allowed each contest. That offensive production stands out even more because Mt. Vernon (6-1 overall, 5-0 HHC) employs a two-tight end, scrum-style, double-wing, which usually puts the ball in the hands of a wingback and builds a wall of blockers ahead of him.
The three backs that power the attack, which scored at least 42 points in each of the last six games, and all are longtime contributors. Zgunda called 6-foot-2, 220-pound fullback Andy Spears a downhill runner in the middle of the Marauder power-running attack.
Spears is flanked by wingbacks Tyler Dicks and Anthony Burnett, both third-year starters and primary offensive weapons. Burnett has run for more than 1,000 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, and Dicks has more than 700 with 12 touchdowns.
With the stakes high already, the game also carries historical ramifications for Mt. Vernon.
“It’s going to be one of the biggest games that Mt. Vernon’s had in the last four or five years,” Marauder coach Doug Armstrong said. “Mt. Vernon has not won a conference since 2003. So that’s almost 10 years ago.”
The last time Mt. Vernon beat Delta was also 2003.
Delta (5-2, 4-1) will counter with its own double-wing offense, which employs Joe Spegal, Mason Bechdolt and Bryce Dishman at the three running back spots and quarterback Cade Jones under center. Jones, a sophomore, averaged more than 100 passing yards during the first six games, and Spegal is the top ballcarrier.
Armstrong said the Eagles had a good deal of deception in their offense, but the big matchup of the night should be the Marauder running game against the Eagles’ usually stingy defense.
Through seven games, Delta ranks fifth in 4A, allowing 15.9 points per contest. Delta usually deploys a 3-3-5 alignment with an emphasis on blitzing, and the staff will have to find a counter to Mt. Vernon’s tight formations.
“Our defense is designed around speed, and their offense is designed around size and power,” Zgunda said. “That’s kind of the matchup. … We’re definitely smaller, so we’ll see how that goes.”