In the first round of sectionals, two Delaware County rivals were battling to advance. The Delta Eagles took possession of the football after the Yorktown Tigers were forced to punt.
Trailing by three, the Eagles drove down the field. After picking up a first down conversion on fourth-and-one that had to be measured, they called their final timeout with 13 seconds left in the game.
Each school's fans roared when the two teams lined up at the goal line. Delta's fourth-year quarterback Kaiden Bond pitched the ball to fourth-year halfback Palmer Samuels.
Then came the hit.
The Yorktown Tigers(7-3, 4-3 HHC) defeated the Delta Eagles(3-7, 1-6 HHC) in a tight, defensive sectional game.
The first quarter was a defensive one as the Eagles punted and the Tigers were stopped on a fourth-down attempt.
Once again, the Eagles had to punt. But the ball bounced off of a Tiger player and was recovered by the kicking team.
This set up the Eagles to strike first with a toe-dragging touchdown catch by fourth-year wide receiver Caleb Elliot, making the score 7-0 with 3:04 left in the first frame. Elliot commented on how he was targeted all season.
“It just shows the trust we have,” he said. “I'm honored by the work we put in and it just resonates on the field.”
The second quarter was no different as both defenses were successful in only giving up short-run plays and forcing incompletions.
After a long drive, the Eagles had an opportunity to extend the lead but missed the field goal.
Taking over after the miss, the Tigers started to gain momentum. Yorktown was in the red zone when third-year quarterback Mason Moulton was hit by fourth-year middle linebacker Dillon Manor. This forced a bad pass that was intercepted by the Eagles.
At halftime, Delta led 7-0.
To start the third quarter, the Tigers had kept the momentum up from the final minutes before halftime.
Third-year halfback Jalen Thomas had a few decent carries and fourth-year Kolton Nanko added yardage from a few runs and receptions.
Then the Tigers found the end zone when Moulton completed a touchdown pass to Nanko, making the score 7-7 at the 5:02 mark.
This was when the case of the fumbles started to become contagious. Samuels fumbled the ball on a long run and was recovered by the Tigers. A few plays later, the Tigers fumbled but were able to recover.
Three plays later, the Tigers went for it on fourth down. Moulton was setting up the play when the ball was snapped. It grazed his helmet and went behind him. This forced a turnover and gave the Eagles good field position.
After recovering the Tigers' fumble, the Eagles would give it right back when Bond fumbled it on a quarterback keeper.
This would set up a successful 28-yard field goal by Nanko, giving the Tigers a 7-10 lead with 10:32 remaining in the game.
The Eagles received the ball but were forced to punt. The Tigers would have to punt as well, giving the eagles the ball that would end up being the final drive.
After multiple runs that went right through the Tiger defense and two Eagle timeouts, Samuels would be stopped just outside of the endzone, with the clock running down to zero.
Tigers head coach Mike Wilhelm praised his team on the last play of the game and called it a “mega stop”.
For the Eagles' Palmer Samuels, his last game had him reflecting on his football past with tears in his eyes.
“The memories on this field,” he said. “Like back to the Metro days. But to end it like this, it doesn't feel good.”
After defeating their rivals, Nanko was excited.
“It’s definitely a good feeling because last year, a lot of beef started between our schools,” he said. “They can't really hold it over us because we have a little bragging rights [now].”
The Tigers will take on Garrett High School at home for their second sectional game.
Around the county, Wes-Del fell to Hagerstown 39-7 and Muncie Central was defeated by Huntington North 21-47; the Tigers are the only Delaware County still in the playoffs.