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Published: Thursday, 11/25/2004

Sidelines: The Delta dart

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DELTA Even before the season began, Northwest Ohio Athletic League football fans were aware of the versatile talents of Delta s Nate Kmic.

But few including Panthers coach Mike Vicars and even Kmic himself ever imagined that the senior would have the kind of season that small-town legends are made of.

Delta fans won t soon forget Kmic s season, which included 1,681 rushing yards on just 165 attempts (10.2-yard average), 10 receptions for 240 yards, 496 return yards and, most notably, his incredible total of 294 points in 12 games (24.5 per game).

This lofty figure by The Blade s 2004 Player of the Year was achieved on 39 touchdowns (33 rushing), 57 conversion points (53 on PAT kicks), and one field goal. It was accumulated despite Kmic not playing offense in the second half of seven games.

No, I never expected that, Kmic said. At the beginning of the season, just to say I d do something like that would have been crazy. But it was a great season and it was an awesome experience.

As a team we played awesome. The offensive line blocked unbelievably well. It s not so hard to get yards when you re running through holes the size of trucks.

What Vicars will remember best is how his undersized 5-9, 180-pound senior star who also had 65 tackles and five interceptions on defense did it all with class.

The best thing I can say about Nate is that he s a terrific and humble human being that God has blessed very well, Vicars said. He has always strived to do his best at everything. He realizes the talents he has, and has tried to develop them.

In that whole process, he s tried to stay humble. He comes from a terrific family.

Vicars knows why No. 11 is so successful.

Nate s got all the tools, Vicars said. He has unbelievable vision and just always seems to be able to find the right place to go, even when it looks like there s no place to go. He s also got great speed and strength, and the elusiveness to make people miss.

Usually, even with good running backs, you don t get everything. Some guys are fast but don t have good vision. Some guys don t have the strength. Some guys can make good plays but don t have the speed or the agility to go 70 yards.

Kmic did just that on several occasions. But talk to him about the 294 points and he ll point to the six he did not get, which would have made him just the fifth player in the history of Ohio high school football to score 300 points in a season. Not because he is focused on personal stats, but because 300 might have led to a second-round Division IV playoff victory over top-ranked Coldwater.

Delta was tied 35-35 in the second overtime against the favored Cavaliers, who had rallied in the final 1:08 of regulation for a 28-28 tie.

On fourth-and-goal from the 2, Panther quarterback Ryan Vicars yelled an audible call, switching first to an inside handoff play and then to a pitch to the right to Kmic.

Kmic heard the first play change, but not the second. When Vicars turned to pitch, he had no pitch man. He froze and was sacked. Coldwater took its turn with the ball and scored a game-winning TD for a 41-35 win.

You can always look back and say What if? Kmic said. I felt like I let the team down.

The bitter ending was unfortunately symbolic of Delta s hard-luck season, which followed a surprising state-semifinal run in 2003.

A fourth-quarter Panther fumble on a fourth-and-goal play enabled NWOAL champion Patrick Henry to hold on for a 29-26 victory. League runner-up Liberty Center scored in the closing minute to take a 27-23 win over Delta.

We were three plays away from being 12-0 and in the regional final, Kmic said.

Nate s going to have to decide where to go, Vicars said. He fights the size parameters. Can he play at the Division-I level? Yes. But he s going to have to get some place that would give him that opportunity.

Kmic acknowledges the obvious size hurdle, but thinks he could clear it if given a chance.

I really think [the size factor] has a lot to do with it, Kmic said. But I think my heart makes up for my lack of size.

Contact Steve Junga at:sjunga@theblade.com or 419-724-6461.



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