There was no better way for Scott Wetzel to start his tenure as football coach for Delaware Hayes.
His Pacers won 24-7 over archrival Buckeye Valley in front over 7,000 fans in a near full house Friday night at Ohio Wesleyan’s Selby Stadium.
“When you take a team on the field for the first time – you really don’t know what to expect,” Wetzel said. “I know the Buckeye Valley fans and I lived in Delaware, so I know the Delaware fans. It’s a good rivalry game … and what a great place to play it.”
BV coach Matt Stephens, meanwhile, didn’t get a chance to take in the crowd.
“I’m sure it was a great atmosphere,” he said. “These kids work hard for nine months out of the year and this is what they deserve to play in front of – play in a venue like this. I told them, ‘You will never forget this for the rest of your lives.’ I just wish it was a better memory.”
Wetzel hasn’t coached in a Hayes-BV game since 1996 – which created an interesting bookend.
“We beat them here – so, I’m 2-0 at Ohio Wesleyan,” Wetzel said. “It was my last (Hayes-BV) game.”
The game was full of twists and turns. But, ultimately the result was the same as it was the previous six times: a Hayes win.
“Unfortunately for us – it’s a familiar spot we’re in — starting the season 0-for-1,” Stephens said. “We have to come back next week at Big Walnut (at 7 p.m.) and get a win. It’s hard to go down 0-2.”
The Pacers seemed poised to put the game out of reach after taking the second-half kickoff and marching 50 yards on 11 plays before the game turned for the first time.
BV’s Andy Anthony intercepted a Blake Eiland pass and returned it 50 yards to set up BV’s only score – a Zach Gerber 4-yard touchdown run with 6:23 left in the third to cut BV’s deficit to 10-7.
“I thought we had a little shift in momentum there, but we just couldn’t maintain it,” Stephens said.
“That was a big turnaround,” Wetzel said. “I thought we kept our composure and we got the ball down the field and scored. I was really proud of the effort our kids gave.”
Hayes (1-0) appeared to snatch momentum back when Jahi Broussard-Nash took an Eiland screen pass 82 yards for a touchdown. But, the play was called back on a penalty and sacks by Jack McKean and Matt Pentecost stalled the Pacer drive.
BV was moving on its next possession until Davis intercepted a Grant Owens pass to set up a Luke Jackson 1-yard run with 10:13 left in the game. Eiland converted a fourth-and-inches on the previous play to keep the drive alive.
“(Davis) is just a player,” Wetzel said. “I thought (assistant coach) Ryan Montgomery did a great job with our defense as our offense was sputtering a little bit. Our defense kept us in the game.”
Hayes jumped out of the gate with an Eiland 41-yard run. Jackson converted a fourth-and-1 inside the 10 to set up an Eiland 1-yard touchdown with 7:45 left in the opening frame.
The Pacer defensive line made life difficult for BV (0-1) in the first half, accounting for four sacks. Logan McKenzie’s sack early in the second quarter stalled a BV drive in Hayes territory that started with a Will Weinberg fumble recovery – seemingly turning momentum for the first time.
BV’s offense finally got going late in the second quarter. Gerber took a screen pass from Owens 19 yards into Hayes territory.
But, Davis came up with a fumble recovery on the next play to end the threat.
“We stressed all (offseason) about playing as a team and my teammate (Jacob Hunsaker) and I – just like last year – recovered it,” Davis said. “I got lucky, but it was all my teammates.”
“Buckeye Valley is a good football team,” Wetzel said. “They’re gonna win a lot of games. But, I thought our guys handled it really well.”
Broussard-Nash followed with a 21-yard run and Eiland found Lequans Banks-Christian for 15-yards to set up a Kyle Klumpp field goal with 6 seconds left in the half to push the Pacer lead to 10-0 at the break.
“I thought our kicker did a good job,” Wetzel said. “He came over from the soccer team (and) this is his first time kicking. I was really proud of him.”
Broussard-Nash scored on a 31-yard run with 1:27 left in the game to cap the scoring.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.