Too many self-inflicted mistakes and a career night from Westerville South running back Nasir Phillips were too much to overcome for the Delaware Hayes football team as it fell, 27-7, on Friday evening in Delaware.
Phillips finished with 248 yards on the ground and a trio of rushing touchdowns, each of which came in the second half, as South steadily pulled away over the final two quarters.
It was a night to forget for quarterback Jake Lowman and the Hayes offense, which managed just three first downs in the second half. Lowman was under duress for most of the game, and a Hayes defense that spent much of the game on the field wore down under South’s relentless ground attack.
The game started off well enough for the Hayes offense, which struck quickly to begin the first quarter after receiving the opening kickoff.
Three consecutive runs by Sawyer Sand to begin the drive had the Pacers on the move, and Lowman and Austin Koslow connected for a 32-yard touchdown to cap off an 11-play, 73-yard scoring drive.
Cooper Goble’s extra point was good and Hayes took an early 7-0 lead just over four minutes into the game, but Hayes simply couldn’t sustain the hot start.
The Hayes defense turned up the pressure on South on the ensuing drive when South quarterback Dominic Birtha was intercepted by Hayes’ Andon Wheeler, quickly ending South’s opening drive. Wheeler returned the ball to the South 38 to set up the Hayes offense, but a pair of holding penalties by Hayes ultimately stalled the drive and forced a punt.
South finally broke through early in the second quarter thanks to the efforts of Phillips, whose 58-yard scamper had the Wildcats in business at the Hayes 10. Birtha found Devray Kirkland in the back of the end zone on the next play, and Kirkland came down with a nifty catch over a defender to tie the score at 7-7 with 8:46 left in the half.
With the game knotted at 7-7, both teams struggled to sustain drives over the remaining eight minutes of the quarter. Hayes managed just 33 yards of offense following its opening scoring drive, and South didn’t fare much better as the two teams took the deadlock into halftime.
The two teams traded punts to begin the second half before South found the end zone again to take its first lead of the night. Phillips carried seven consecutive times to begin the drive as South marched to the Delaware 17, and a pair of carries from Lenny Wicks had the Wildcats knocking on the door inside the 5-yard line.
Hayes appeared to have come up with a critical stop, however, after Sands stopped Phillips in the backfield to force a field goal attempt. Quentin Sheet’s 27-yarder sailed wide right, and the Hayes sideline celebrated the momentum swing, but a flag for roughing the kicker was thrown, and the scoring drive was alive again for South.
Phillips punched it in three plays later for his first touchdown of the game, and despite the extra point being blocked, South had a 13-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Desperately in need of a response from their offense, the mistakes continued to pile up for the Pacers on the ensuing drive. A holding penalty on second down put them behind the chains and ultimately led to another punt from Andrew Hilditch, who stayed busy all night.
With the game growing late and Hayes on its heels, South strengthened its grip on the lead and the game with an eight-play drive that covered 60 yards. Phillips finished off the drive with a 26-yard touchdown run, his second of the half, and South had opened a 20-7 lead with 9:38 remaining in the game.
Lowman was sacked on third down to end the ensuing Hayes drive, and South’s Jalen Wheeler nearly returned the punt for a touchdown before being knocked out of bounds at the Hayes 2.
Set up for the final knockout blow, South turned to none other than Phillips for his third and final touchdown run of the game to cap off his massive performance and the win for the Wildcats to improve to 6-1.
Following the game, Hayes head coach Ryan Montgomery lamented the sloppy performance from his team
“We had some uncharacteristic mistakes,” Montgomery said. “We had a few holding penalties and procedure penalties that set us back early in the game when we had some momentum. They were just things that haven’t happened to us all year that kinda crept in and bit us in the butt a little bit and caused us to get stagnant. We would get something going and take two steps forward and then three steps back, and we just weren’t able to sustain it.”
With the loss, the Pacers drop to 5-2 on the season and will look to get back on track next week when they host Dublin Scioto (2-5).
Montgomery’s message to his team after the game was simple in that everything Hayes was playing for entering the game is still very much in front of him team.
“I told our guys that we’re getting ready to head into Week 8 with two losses and three big games coming up in the conference,” he said. “As a program, we haven’t had a lot of OCC wins at the end of the season. We have a chance to continue to add to that, continue to build our resume, and then have the opportunity to see what happens in the postseason. There have only been two teams to get eight wins here at Delaware Hayes, and we want to be the third. There’s a lot ahead of us.”