DELTA – Before last week, the last time Hodge Raftopoulos ran the football in a game was his freshman year. Friday night in Delta, the senior and Moffat County’s “thunder” formation ran over the Panthers for a 26-7 victory.
“The thunder is the easiest offensive formation in football to prepare for,” said Raftopoulos, who spends most of his time as a lineman. “We just run the ball right up the gut and challenge teams to stop us. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d run the ball at all going into this season, but I’ll do whatever the coaches need.”
It’s hard to stop a running back when the offensive line in front of him is dominating, just ask Delta coach Ben Johnson.
“(Moffat) just dominated us in the trenches,” Johnson said. “We got pushed around tonight.”
The thunder formation places two of Moffat’s biggest lineman, seniors Justin Benedict and Casey Martin, in front of Raftopoulos, and they rarely ran anywhere but right up the gut. Each time the Bulldogs moved the ball inside Delta’s 20-yard line, they went into thunder mode.
Raftopoulos scored three of the team’s touchdowns, and sophomore quarterback Bubba Ivers scored on a one-yard dive.
The Bulldogs dominated on paper as well as on the field. The visitors had possession of the ball for all but six minutes of the 48-minute game. Delta unofficially had a total of eight positive yardage plays in the game.
Take out the Panther’s 61-yard bomb for a touchdown from Mitchel Whiteside to Nolan Britain in the second quarter to put them up 7-6, Delta had 16 total yards of offense.
“That play were they got us we had great coverage,” Bulldogs’ coach Kip Hafey said. “It took away some momentum from us, but the kids stayed confident.”
The defense forced and recovered three fumbles in the second half. The first happened on Delta’s first possession of the half when senior CJ Walt and junior Dario Georgiou forced the ball loose from Whiteside. Raftopoulos recovered the fumble with 5 minutes 35 seconds left in the third quarter on Delta’s 15-yard line.
After a three-play drive that resulted in Raftopoulos’ second touchdown run of the game, the Dogs knocked the ball from Britain on the kickoff.
Aided by 25 yards in Delta penalties, Moffat County finished of the ensuing drive with another Raftopoulos plunge into the end zone, for a 20-7 lead with 33.6 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Another three-and-out on offense for the Panthers was converted into the Bulldog’s final touchdown with 7:29 left in the fourth quarter.
The second half officially reached nightmare status for the Panthers on the next possession. A 14-yard pass completion became a turnover when Moffat senior Chet Harvey hit the receiver and knocked the ball loose.
“That was a big enough hit that it echoed through here,” Hafey said.
Moffat County recovered the fumble and ran out the clock.
Lightning before the thunder
The thunder formation was set up by the speed running game of mostly Ivers and junior running backs Braeden Sullivan and Mason Updike. The trio combined for 52 carries for 204 yards. Ivers earned significant yards on what appeared to be pass plays.
“Bubba showed some good maturity and decision making tonight,” Hafey said. “He gave what Delta allowed him.”
Overall the Bulldogs had six different backs carry the ball for 259 yards before the second team entered the game with three minutes remaining.
Raftopoulos finished with 49 yards on 13 carries.
Good start in league
The victory over a top-10 ranked team and former state playoff qualifier has the Bulldogs sitting well as they start league play.
“This was a big one for us,” Hafey said. “To come down here and upset a team on its homecoming feels good. Now we have to get ready for Palisade and another tough one next week.”
That will certainly include some more carries for Raftopoulos.
“I’ve probably played every position except quarterback, now,” he said.
Don’t speak too soon, Hodge, next week “thunder” might also mean No. 54 behind center.