The Mustangs came into 2011 with high expectations and a deep and able roster, but with question marks as well.
A new starting quarterback had to be broken in and gone were the team-leading rusher and receiver from the previous year.
Freshman quarterback Sam Hutsell has shown tremendous poise in his time at Delta and has played well, while showing a substantial amount of toughness.
The offense’s fast progress coupled with a stingy defense has the Mustangs off to a good start but Head Coach Gary Barlow is still demanding more from his team.
“The kind of theme or mantra of our football team has always been ‘harder and smarter’…that’s always a point of emphasis in everything we do. I think we’re playing hard and the ‘harder’ part is coming along very good. I think the ‘smarter’ part is a work in progress and we have had some mistakes and penalties and turnovers that have hurt us, but I feel like we’re making progress in that area,” said Barlow.
The season kicked off with a 41-28 win over the Merced College Blue Devils.
Following a week two 41-9 victory over College of the Siskiyous highlighted by running back Despray Celestine’s 3 rushing touchdowns, the Mustangs were ambushed by American River College.
Beavers quarterback Andy McAlindon completed 27 of 41 passes for 402 yards and 3 touchdowns, handing Delta its first loss of the season, 51-9.
The Mustangs regrouped against San Jose City College, as Delta dominated in a 49-7 blowout.
A fired up defense bounced back, surrendering 220 total yards, including 30 on the ground.
Defensive tackle Josh Banks proved impossible to block and sacked Jaguars’ quarterback Jaymeson Lee four times.
The nationally number one ranked City College of San Francisco Rams rolled into De Ricco stadium the following week, boasting an undefeated record and an average victory margin of 53 points.
While escaping with a narrow 16-14 victory, the team was matched blow for blow by a Mustangs team that simply refused to back down.
Hutsell was battered by a physically imposing Rams defense but remained staunch in the pocket and had a touchdown pass questionably called back that would have given his team the lead in the fourth.
San Francisco’s offense came into the game amassing 56.5 points and 527 yards of total offense per game.
The Mustang defense, led by Nick Largent, brought the Rams to a halt.
Largent said the key component to the success the defense had was simply preparation.
“I think it all starts with the game plan our coaches put together and then overall our defense bought into that whole game plan…the coaches were right and we ended up holding them to 16 points and that’s big, so the coaches knew what they were talking about and we just gave it our all and used our speed and did what we were supposed to do,” he said.
Largent boasted big numbers for the Mustangs — 14 tackles, two and a half tackles for loss and a sack.
In a game where the Delta defense needed its captain to lead the charge, Largent came through in a big way, exemplifying the type of player he is.
Again facing a potentially demoralizing loss, the Mustangs fought back as the team kicked off conference play by beating a College of the Sequoias Giants team that at one point ranked 23rd in the state.
The game marked the best offensive showing of the season by Delta, particularly the line, which paved the way for 249 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.
The line made sure its quarterback went through the entire game practically untouched, which allowed Hutsell his most efficient performance in a Delta uniform, completing 17 of 24 passes for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.
“It would be easy to take either of those (loses) and effect you down the road, I think the healthy thing to do is learn from the mistakes and move on…no matter what happens on Saturday, you gotta win the next game,” said Barlow.
The Mustangs stand at 4-2. The team takes the field again on Saturday, Oct. 22 in a conference match against Reedley College (1-5, 0-1 conference).