In the end, Delhi was too big, too fast and too well-prepared.
These factors and more came together to produce an undefeated season this fall that culminated Saturday afternoon with a 32-3 win over the Waterford Wolves in the Norfolk Bowl.
The victory returns the Raiders to the winner’s circle for the first time since it last won the county title in 2016. It’s been a good run for the Wolves, who won the Norfolk championship in 2017 and topped that last year with a win in the Haldimand-Norfolk Bowl.
“This season was a lot of fun,” said Delhi coach Dave Leatherland, who marked 20 years in the position this fall.
“This was a great bunch of coaches and a great bunch of students to work with. It was pouring rain Wednesday but we had 37 guys out for practice. These guys are focused and want to play football. The easy thing to do was to stay home, but they were hungry. Our team was very well-prepared today. Our defence was strong all season long, and again they had a great game.”
Delhi needed that defence as Waterford made a game of it in the first half. The Wolves had a shot after two quarters, trailing Delhi and its dynamic offence by a score of 9-3.
But the Wolves ended up blinking first.
After taking the kickoff to start the second half, Waterford muffed the snap on the first two plays from scrimmage and it was all downhill from there. Delhi returned to form with its powerful running and passing game while Waterford steadily faded in the rear-view mirror.
“We started strong but died down as the game went along,” said the Wolves’ Tanner Geerts. “We lacked confidence. We gave up at half time and didn’t give it our all.”
Delhi running back Jacob Schooley — a key piece of the Raiders’ success all season long – delivered more than enough to provide the margin of victory. Along with the rest of his teammates, Schooley was invisible in the first half but more than compensated with three touchdowns in the second.
“The commitment wasn’t there before,” Schooley said. “But this year, it’s like a switch went on. Everyone was coming out to practice. Everyone was listening to the coaches. That’s the big difference from this year to the last.”
There were some tears in the Wolves’ end of the field as fifth-year players ended this aspect of their high-school experience on a losing note. Coach Dave Millette was a little emotional himself as he spoke of what might’ve been.
“It was definitely a good first half for us,” he said. “They’re a powerful squad and we held them the way we wanted to. Half our team is made up of Grade 9’s and Grade 10’s. That can make it hard to compete.”
For their part, Delhi said good-bye Saturday to six fifth-year players. However, the Raiders are well represented across all grade groups, prompting Leatherland to observe that “We’re not into a rebuild” when the 2020 season rolls around.
The Wolves and Raiders have demonstrated in recent years that they are Norfolk’s gridiron elite. Since 2007, Delhi has won the Norfolk title seven times while Waterford has won it six times. The last time someone else won was 2006 when the county title went to the Sabres of Simcoe Composite School.
Also scoring a touchdown for Delhi was Daunte Henriques. Delhi quarterback Jaxson Zurby also accounted for a touchdown of sorts. Zurby kicked for five single points and a safety. Booting Waterford’s field goal was Ben Baruth.