The sentiment surrounding the Derby football squad following its victory over Andover Central was discontentment. Running back Tyler West chided “we’re getting there.” Linebacker Jose Delgado said the Panthers had their “ups and downs.”
If a 48-0 runaway against a team that qualified for the 5A state playoffs a year ago doesn’t satisfy the Panthers, what will?
The self-evident truth is that the Panthers are holding themselves to a higher standard as they chase visions of playing well into November.
So while Chandler Shantz’ three touchdown passes impressed the energized Derby home crowd, the two interceptions will be a focal point in practice. Delgado was unhappy with his defensive penalty, despite the team pitching a shutout. Jeremy Dunham may have reeled in a gorgeous 29-yard touchdown reception in only his second game as a receiver, but fine-tuning the routes is still paramount to him and fellow quarterback-turned-wideout Kellen Sims.
“We’re still learning. Every day we’re working hard and we’re still learning a lot,” Dunham said. “(Shantz is) new here, so we’re all still getting the chemistry down. Hopefully by the end of the year it’ll get better every game.”
It may be tough to get even better than this sterling performance.
West sparked the ground assault with a 12-yard dash off his right tackle to put Derby ahead 7-0. Andover Central stayed competitive for much of the rest of the half behind an interception from Zach Horn and a grinding offense.
Yet late in the second quarter, the Panthers’ all-cylinders-go offense started churning.
Dunham hauled in his gem to put Derby up 14-0 with less than three minutes to go in the half. A drive from the Jaguars stalled with the aid of a sack from Delgado, letting Shane Fowler pull in a wide open pass from Shantz on Derby’s next drive for a touchdown.
Andover Central fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Derby made it count by tacking on one more score, this time with Shantz finding DeAndre Goolsby in the middle of the end zone for a 28-0 advantage heading into halftime.
Derby’s defense held firm the remainder of the contest, keeping the formidable Jaguar offensive duo of quarterback Blake Meier and wide receiver Kolten Holinde in check.
“Our speed helps us out a lot to fill the gaps really fast,” Delgado said. “Even on the outside receivers, when we cover them, too. We’re a speed team. We’re not the biggest linebackers, but we can play with them.”
West, Dunham and Devin Peter all added touchdowns on the ground in the second half for the Panthers.
The Andover Central defense had its moments, as Kier Stamp added an interception and fumble recovery to stall, but not stop, the Derby offense.
“We’re not satisfied because we made a lot of mental mistakes, but we can fix those,” West said. “We’ll pick it up in practice.”
Derby rode an extra dose of emotion, as 2012 graduate Colby Liston attended the game. Liston lost both his legs in a car wreck in Lawrence in late August. His resiliency and passion has become a rallying point for the team, as well as the city.
“We dedicated the season to Colby. Our kids love Colby to death,” said Brandon Clark, Derby head coach. “To have that guy come back and see what he’s gone through, that was just truly inspirational. It was pretty special. He gave the kids a little fire.”