By ERIC CLINE
Thanks to a fierce defense, a strong kicking game and enough offense to get through, the Hayes Pacers knocked off the county rival Buckeye Valley Barons 30-6 in non-league action Friday night at Baron Field.
The Hayes (1-0) defense held the Buckeye Valley (0-1) offense down throughout the first half as the Barons yielded a grand total of minus-63 yards of total offense in the first 24 minutes. Buckeye Valley could get nothing going on offense, fumbling three times and losing one.
“We were pretty good at moving them around efficiently up front,” Hayes first-year coach Mike Golden said. “Our front seven or eight guys are pretty good, and our defensive line was solid all the way through, and our offensive line was much better in the second half.”
“To come out and play like we did on our first five plays was tough,” first-year Buckeye Valley coach Matt Stephens said. “We had several mental mistakes, some guys lined up wrong, we had a penalty in there and we put the ball on the ground inside the 20. We spotted them about 13 points in the game, and we can’t do that against good teams like Hayes.”
While the Pacers had better luck, Hayes still only gained 86 yards of offense in the opening half. The key in the first half was better field position, which helped the Pacers get on the scoreboard three times in the first half.
“We dominated on defense, but we struggled a little on offense,” Golden said. “Buckeye Valley did a great job. They had a great scheme for us and scouted us well. They took away some of out wing-T plays for a while, so give them a lot of credit. I think they’re going to get some things done this year.”
“Our defense played well and played the entire game,” Stephens said. “We had a couple breakdowns and they hit a couple seams on us for some big plays late, but they continued to play the entire game. I don’t fault our kids’ effort at all.”
After forcing the Barons to punt on their opening drive, Hayes used eight plays, driving from the Buckeye Valley 43 to the Baron 14, and senior kicker Joseph Sanfillipo hit a 31-yard field goal with 5:18 left in the first quarter to break the scoreless deadlock.
Buckeye Valley took possession after Sanfillipo’s second touchback kickoff, but sophomore running back Nick Kidwell fumbled behind the line of scrimmage on the first play of the possession and Hayes senior lineman Matt Persinger recovered at the Baron 19-yard line.
Hayes advanced to the Buckeye Valley four-yard line, and on fourth down, Sanfillipo drilled another field goal, this time from 22 yards out, giving the Pacers a 6-0 lead with 2:21 left in the first quarter.
“He can certainly do it,” Golden said. “When you have a kid who makes them start on the 20 after every kickoff, that’s a huge advantage for you.”
The Pacers attempted another field goal early in the second quarter, this time from 45 yards away, but a fumbled hold caused Sanfillipo’s attempt to sail wide left.
The Barons caught their first break late in the half, when junior defensive back Todd Westover intercepted a pass from Hayes sophomore quarterback Cullen Moore, returning the pick to the Baron 48, but the offense could not get anything going, and a wild snap from center forced senior punter Austin Kelleher to fall on the football at the Barons’ 14-yard line.
On the first play of the next Hayes drive, Moore found junior tight end Jacob Hackathorn in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game with 1:27 left in the half.
Hayes went three-and-out on its first drive of the second half, but after the defense forced a Baron punt, Hayes junior running back Ethan Tucky sprinted through a hole up the middle and ran 81 yards for a touchdown with eight minutes left in the third quarter.
Buckeye Valley had its first strong drive after that, but it ended abruptly when Hayes senior defensive back Christopher Wooten picked off a pass from Baron junior quarterback Tim Schilling and returned it 18 yards to the Hayes 49-yard line.
Hayes held the ball through the beginning of the fourth quarter and drove to the Baron three, and Sanfillipo hit his third field goal of the night, this one from 20 yards out, to give the Pacers a 23-0 lead with 10:51 left in the game.
The Barons continued their strong offense in the second half and finally broke through on their next drive, helped by a pair of Hayes penalties. Buckeye Valley drove from their own 20 to the Hayes 22, and Tim Schilling found junior receiver Gabe Miller on the left side for a touchdown with 9:18 left.
“Our kids came out and established themselves a little more on the offensive side,” Stephens said.
But the celebration was short-lived, as Hayes senior Brandon McConaha returned the kickoff to the Hayes 42, and sophomore Deven Ward took the first carry 58 yards for another Hayes touchdown with 9:01 left in the game, ending the scoring.
“We had a lot of cramping tonight, so that bogged down a little, but we got some good yardage out of Ethan and (senior running back) Ernie (Bonsu). We have a lot of kids who can play, like Devin, who’s a kid with a really big upside as a sophomore.”
Ward ended as the game’s leading rusher, finishing with 104 yards on six carries with his one touchdown. Tucky also had 95 yards on eight carries with one score, and junior Sean Gliebe carried five times for 82 yards, including a 59-yard carry late in the game.
Moore finished 8 of 16 through the air for 107 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Junior Noah Watts and Hackathorn had two receptions each, Watts for 28 yards and Hackathorn for 27 plus a touchdown.
Schilling’s arm helped the Barons to 209 yards of offense in the second half. The junior quarterback finished his night 18 for 29 passing for 175 yards, one touchdown and two picks. Senior Austin Kelleher had five receptions for 50 yards while Miller and senior Hunter Morrison had four each, Miller for 52 yards and a touchdown and Morrison for 44 yards. Kidwell had the best rushing numbers for the Barons, with four carries for four yards.