SUNBURY — In a Delaware County showdown of unbeaten teams, the Big Walnut Golden Eagles rode another prolific effort from running back Nate Severs to a 34-14 win over visiting Delaware Hayes on Friday evening in Sunbury.
Severs carried the ball 38 times for 247 yards and four touchdowns on the evening as Big Walnut dominated time of possession and methodically wore down Delaware Hayes in the second half.
As good as Severs was on the ground for Big Walnut, the Golden Eagles’ defense was equally as effective in limiting Hayes’ running game. The Pacers were held to just 32 rushing yards and just 182 yards of total offense for the game.
Big Walnut head coach Rob Page said following the game that one of the team’s goals coming into the game was to start fast, and the Golden Eagles certainly did that on the opening drive of the game.
Big Walnut received the opening kickoff and established immediate control with a dominant drive that spanned 80 yards on 17 plays and chewed up more than seven minutes of game clock. Severs’ three-yard touchdown run capped off the drive, and Cam Gladden’s extra point made it 7-0 Big Walnut with 5:25 to play in the first.
After a quick three-and-out from Hayes, Big Walnut was back to work with its overpowering rushing attack. Severs carried three times for 26 yards to begin the drive, and a 10-yard scramble by Jake Nier on third down kept the drive alive and had Big Walnut threatening to add to its early lead.
In the midst of another lengthy drive and on the verge of seizing all control of the game early, an ill-advised throw by Nier was intercepted in the end zone by Hayes’ Nikeese McCollum to thwart the scoring opportunity, and McCollum raced 45 yards up the sideline to set the Pacers up with great field position to begin its second possession of the game.
Hayes couldn’t muster any offense following the turnover, though, and Lowman was sacked on fourth down at the Big Walnut 37 to turn the ball over on downs.
Still leading 7-0, Big Walnut quickly marched deep into Hayes territory when Severs broke loose for 31 yards on the second play of the drive, setting up a first down from the Hayes 24.
Four plays later, Severs busted into the end zone from 13 yards out for his second touchdown run of the evening and a 14-0 lead for the Golden Eagles with 8:19 remaining in the half.
Sorely in need of a sustained drive, Lowman turned to receiver Austin Koslow to finally generate some offense. The duo connected on three of the first four plays totaling 41 yards to move the ball to the Big Walnut 35. Five plays later, it was Kaden Gannon hauling in Lowman’s pass from 22 yards out to put Hayes on the board.
Cooper Goble’s extra point cut the Big Walnut lead to 14-7 with 4:56 to play in the second quarter.
Hayes’ momentum was short-lived, however, as Big Walnut’s Nicky Pentello returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards to the Hayes 25 before being run out of bounds. The Golden Eagles were able to cash in the big special teams play for three points on Gladden’s 25-yard field goal just before halftime.
Hayes threatened to get points on the final drive of the first half, but Goble’s 34-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left as the final seconds ticked away, sending the Pacers in with a 17-7 deficit.
Severs finished the first half with 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, and he was just getting started as Hayes never would find a way to slow him down.
Out of halftime, Hayes received the opening kickoff but was unable to move the ball before punting back to Big Walnut early in the third quarter.
Like it did to begin the game, Big Walnut began the second half by engineering a lengthy, time-consuming drive that moved all the way to the Hayes 15. However, a holding call ultimately led to a stalled drive, and the Golden Eagles were forced to settle for another Gladden field goal and a 20-7 lead late in the third quarter.
With the game growing late, Hayes continued to battle, and they broke through with 2:10 remaining in the third when Lowman reconnected with Koslow.
Facing a critical fourth down at the Big Walnut 35, Lowman took the snap and was flushed out of the pocket. Forced to get rid of the ball, Lowman unleashed a beautiful 35-yard pass while being hit that Koslow ran down and secured for the touchdown.
Goble’s extra point had the Pacers within six points at 20-14 with 2:10 remaining in the quarter, but Severs and Big Walnut quickly recaptured the momentum with yet another long drive.
Runs of 27 and 11 yards by Severs gave Big Walnut a first and goal from the Hayes 3-yard line, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Severs finished off the drive with his third touchdown of the evening. Gladden’s extra point increased the lead to 27-14 and effectively ended the game.
Severs added one more rushing touchdown for good measure with under four minutes remaining in the game to cap off a spectacular performance and keep Big Walnut undefeated.
“Nate is a generational back,” Page said of his running back following the game. “I hope I get the opportunity to coach someone as good as he is for the next 20 years of my life but it’s probably never going to happen. He’s special in every way. he’s a selfless guy. It’s never about him, it’s always about the team. He’s the consummate worker, and it’s a blessing to get to coach him on many levels.”
For Hayes head coach Ryan Montgomery, while the end result was not a win, there was plenty to be encouraged about heading into week five.
“Is it the outcome we wanted or desired? No, it’s not … We closed it to a one-score game getting close to the fourth quarter,” he said. “Our defense battled despite being on the field a lot. I thought they limited big plays. But our kids came out and fought. Nobody really gave us a chance besides our guys in the locker room, and I loved the way we competed tonight.”
Delaware Hayes will look to get back on track next week when it hosts Westerville North, while Big Walnut hopes to remain unbeaten when it travels to Westerville South.