Since moving to Delaware back in 2011, the official start of the fall season for me, and probably many other Delawareans, has been marked by the running of the annual Little Brown Jug harness race at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. During this time, the familiar flags featuring a brown jug can be seen all around town, and the talk of the town is which pacer — a race horse that moves its legs on the same side of its body together or runs with a lateral gait rather than a diagonal one — will win the big race.
This year, however, was a bit different for me. As I walked the fairgrounds last week taking photos during the Delaware County Fair, the talk was certainly about pacers, but it wasn’t all about the standardbred horse type. Instead, the buzz was around the Delaware Hayes Pacers football team, with good reason.
Under the leadership of first-year head coach Ryan Montgomery, the squad is off to its best start through six games (5-1) since 2018. Unfortunately, the Pacers finished that season 6-4 after losing three of their last four games.
Montgomery certainly had his hands full when he accepted the position. Since 2000, the Pacers have finished with a winning record only three times, while going 5-5 three other times. The school’s best record over that timeframe was a 7-3 finish in 2008, which led to the program’s first-ever playoff appearance.
Having stood on the sideline the last three games to take photos for the newspaper, I have witnessed firsthand why the community is excited about not only the rest of the 2022 season, but also for the future of the football program at Delaware Hayes.
Upon quick glance, it’s easy to see the players have bought into Montgomery’s coaching philosophy and are playing hard for him. There have been times this season when the Pacers could have reverted to their old ways, but the team has shown resiliency time and time again, which bodes well for the future.
I’ll be honest, there have been times when Montgomery has the sideline so pumped up that I’ve considered running out onto the field. My eligibility, however, expired over two decades ago.
Silliness aside, I’m looking forward to covering tonight’s Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division showdown between Delaware Hayes and visiting Westerville South. The Wildcats enter the game at 5-1 as well, and they remain the only undefeated team in the division.
A win tonight would move the Pacers into a first-place tie. If that happens, the team will continue to be the talk of the town. Who knows, maybe Montgomery will someday have a statue erected of him just like the school’s namesake – the 19th president of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes.
Out of curiosity, I reached out to local historian Brent Carson to inquire about the history of the football program. The Pacers haven’t had the best of luck in the OCC since the conference was formed back in 1968. Since the inaugural season, the team has claimed the outright title just once, back in 1996, while also claiming a share of the title back in 1969.
By the way, for those who missed our article last week on the 77th running of the Little Brown Jug, Bythemissal became the first Ohio-sired Jug champion since 1988.
Joshua Keeran is managing editor of The Delaware Gazette. Reach him by email at [email protected] or by phone at 740-413-0900.