By DOUG ZALESKI
Delta football coach Chris Overholt challenged senior wide receiver Wesley Stitt during practices in fall camp to be a player opponents had to focus on when making a game plan to play the offensively talented Eagles. It took only two plays for Stitt to make a lasting impression in Delta’s season-opening game. He scored on a 67-yard touchdown pass on the Eagles’ first offensive play, then dashed 56 yards on a sweep on their second play. The scores provided the early juice to propel Delta to a 42-0 victory over Muncie Central.
“We said, ‘Hey, man, they’re talking about (receiver) Cameron Levers and (quarterback) Brady Hunt, and nobody’s talking about you. Are you going to be ready when the lights come on? Are you going to be ready?’ ” Overholt recalled the conversation with Stitt. “He delivered on the first two plays of the game.”
Stitt electrified the jam-packed bleachers on the Delta side of the field when he hauled in a long pass from Hunt on a go-route along the far sideline, then outran the Bearcat defense the final 35 yards to the end zone.
On the Eagles’ next play, Stitt took a handoff from Hunt on a sweep, cut sharply into the middle of the line and wiggled into the Central secondary. From there he used the 4.5-second 40-yard dash time that he clocked at a Ball State camp this summer to race untouched to the end zone 56 yards later.
“It was a great pass by Brady Hunt (on the first TD) and a great block by (pulling guard) Evan Conley (on the second one),” Stitt said. “The pass was just a go down the sideline; we haven’t practiced it much. (On the sweep), I thought it was going to be more congested than it was, but my guys blocked amazing. I can’t ask for a better offensive line.”
The first two plays for the Eagles were scripted by the coaching staff. Stitt scored on a 1-yard blast late in the first quarter to build the lead to 21-0. Throughout the game he showed great athletic ability, vision and instincts.
“He does really well and is comfortable in tight windows,” Overholt said. “He knows when he can put that foot down and really go. And not many people are going to catch him.”
The Eagles’ offense sputtered in the second quarter as Central’s defense attacked from all angles.
The Bearcats sacked Hunt multiple times in the second quarter, and disrupted most of the throws he was able to attempt. “We have a bunch of guys who want to play,” first-year Bearcats coach Darrick Lee said. “(Delta) took us by surprise in that first quarter. I was proud of the way our guys fought, but there were some things I didn’t like that we need to work on. We have a lot of room to grow, and we’ll get there.”
The Bearcats weren’t able to seriously threaten the end zone, and Delta ironed out its problems at halftime to add three touchdowns in the second half. The Eagles’ Milachi Silmon rushed for TDs from 11 yards and 1 yard in the third period, and JaVaughn Whitfield scored on a short run in the final quarter.
“I’m a guy who’s completely honest, and (Delta is) a good football team; they came out and hit us in the mouth with those first two great scores,” Lee said. “Our defense came back and rallied (in the second quarter), but we got worn out. It was a big moment of clarity for us. We realized we’re not as good as we thought we are. We have a long way to go. This is going to take time. "We’re working, and we’re going to get there. It’s just going to take some time.”
The Bearcats played two quarterbacks in the game, starter Daire’el Hall and backup Max Pittman. Each turned in an uneven performance. “Tonight was both of their first nights in a varsity football game at quarterback,” Lee said. “But there are no excuses. Our quarterbacks are in for a long week of practices, and we’ll see what happens.”
The shutout for Delta was its first since it beat Jay County 63-0 in the 2015 season-opener. Overholt was pleased with this shutout after the defense lost stallwarts Brady Pease, Mason Hunt, Wesley Woodin and Nate Southerland from last year’s group. “These guys (this year) decided in June that there would be no fall-off; they’re going to take the next step,” Overholt said. “Our hustle in practice is amazing; it’s the best I’ve ever been around.”
Delta will play at home Aug. 30 against Eastbrook.
Central will be at home next Friday against Yorktown.