COLUMBUS — With their collective backs up against the wall on Friday evening, the Delaware Hayes Pacers delivered, perhaps, the defining win of the season with a 21-17 come-from-behind triumph over Worthington Kilbourne.
Hayes running back Sawyer Sand’s 8-yard touchdown run with 1:13 to play gave the Pacers their final lead, and Kilboure’s last-ditch efforts were thwarted by the Hayes defense as the Pacers improved to 5-1 on the season.
Quarterback Jake Lowman finished 11-for-22 passing for 252 yards and a touchdown through the air, and receiver Austin Koslow recorded five catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Sand carried eight times for 54 yards to go along with his go-ahead score in the final minutes.
Kilbourne got on the scoreboard first early in the first quarter following a Hayes punt on the opening possession of the game. A 27-yard field goal from Gavin Scott gave the Wolves the early 3-0 lead.
Hayes wasted no time in responding to the early points, needing just three plays to take its first lead. Lowman and Koslow connected for a 69-yard catch and run to the Kilbourne 11, and running back Josh Russell punched it in a play later for a touchdown.
Cooper Goble’s extra point was good, giving Hayes a 7-3 lead with 6:30 remaining in the opening quarter.
Hayes appeared on the verge of stretching its lead to start the second quarter following a special teams blunder by Kilbourne’s Payton Metzger, who had the Hayes punt bounce off of him for a turnover on the final play of the first quarter.
With a new set of downs at the Kilbourne 48, Lowman and Koslow connected for a gain of 32 yards to move into the Kilbourne red zone. Lowman was picked off in the end zone by Kilbourne’s Tyler Cain, however, and the Pacers were turned away without points.
A blocked Kilbourne field goal on the ensuing drive ended the Wolves’ scoring threat, and the Hayes offense was finally able to extend its lead midway through the second quarter.
Consecutive completions from Lowman to Kaden Gannon for a total of 37 yards had Hayes on the move, and a personal foul penalty on Kilbourne moved the ball to the 13-yard line. Two plays later, Koslow reeled in a Lowman pass for a tough, contested catch in the end zone and a 14-3 Hayes lead.
Hayes cornerback Nikeese McCollum’s interception of Metzger set the Pacers up with great field position late in the half, but they were unable to do anything with the opportunity and settled for the 11-point lead heading into halftime.
Much like the first half, Kilbourne drew first blood in the second half midway through the third quarter despite being backed up to its own 4-yard line to start the drive.
Kilbourne quarterback Nash Biglin’s 7-yard touchdown run capped off a massive 14-play, 96-yard scoring drive to bring the Wolves to within five points with 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter; the two-point conversion was unsuccessful.
Badly in need of a sustained drive, the Hayes offense received a gift from Kilbourne as the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds. Set up at their own 40, the offense quickly moved the ball to the Kilbourne 39 but faced a fourth down and inches to keep the drive alive.
As was the case for much of the second half, however, Kilbourne’s physicality won out as Lowman was stuffed short of the line to gain, turning the ball over on downs.
Looking to take its first lead of the game on the ensuing drive, Kilbourne faced a third down at its own 40, needing 21 yards to extend the drive. Biglin scrambled to avoid pressure before connecting with Tommy Brown for a 34-yard gain that moved the Wolves to the Hayes 26 midway through the fourth.
Six plays later, Marcus Gipson barreled his way into the end zone from nine yards out to give Kilbourne a 17-14 lead with just over five minutes to play, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
With the game on the line, Lowman and the Hayes offense began their final drive at their own 21. Completions of 21 and 17 yards had Hayes on the move and into Kilbourne territory as the clock ticked under three minutes remaining, but consecutive plays for negative yardage had the Pacers in a massive hole on third down from the Hayes 46.
Needing 23 yards to extend the drive, Lowman tossed a desperation heave down the field in the direction of Wyatt Kirtland, who came down with the catch over multiple defenders at the Kilbourne 20 to set up Sand’s game-winner and stun the Kilbourne faithful in attendance.
Following the game, Hayes head coach Ryan Montgomery said of the win, “It shows that everything we worked on all offseason, these guys have bought into it. They believe in each other and they’re willing to accept challenges. We pushed ourselves in the offseason for moments like this … We’ve been in a lot of tight games, and we’re learning to finish, and that’s what you see with a successful program, is finishing games.”
Montgomery added of the comeback victory, “I think it’s huge (for our program). We had some adversity this week. When you don’t have school, you always wonder how your guys are going to come out and play, and we were off school Thursday and Friday … They were mentally locked in and ready to go.”