It’s easy to be excited about the Delaware Hayes football team. There should be excitement.
Thanks to a 38-7 win over Olentangy Berlin to open OCC-Cardinal play Friday night, the Pacers are 4-0 for the first time since 1988 and well-entrenched as a playoff team according to Joe Eitel’s website.
A playoff berth would be the second in school history and the first since 2008.
“We’ve been putting in the work to get this team turned around,” junior Jahi Broussard-Nash said. “We know what we can do – we just have to believe in each other.”
And first-year coach Scott Wetzel is excited, too. But, he knows the job isn’t close to being done.
“It’s a nice start by our guys – we’ve played hard,” Wetzel said. “We get to the grind after this … we know what we’ve got coming up. But, after our first four games – to be 4-0 – is just a thrill for us.”
Wetzel should know. He was at the helm when Big Walnut won a state title in 2007.
Wetzel said it isn’t about him. It’s about his players.
“We have great kids and they come to practice and they work hard,” Wetzel said. “We’ve learned how to handle success a little bit. They play hard and they’re improving every day. That’s the thing I like about them – they’re fun to be around. We have good practices because of them. I’d like to say it’s because of me, but it’s because of them.”
Sophomore Blake Eiland ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third and Broussard-Nash and Luke Jackson each added scores out of the backfield as the Pacers (4-0, 1-0) amassed 259 of their 384 yards of offense on the ground.
Eiland ran for 123 yards on nine carries, including an 87-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He also threw for 125 yards, including a 5-yard pass to Nabil Abdus-salaam.
“The one thing that’s huge with Blake is that he played that spot last year,” Wetzel said. “I know he’s only a sophomore, but when you return – all of those jitters and things – he had them last year. He’s pretty confident and he’s pretty cool under pressure. He handles the huddle really well. He’s just a great leader for us.”
Kyle Klumpp added a 45-yard field goal with less than a minute left to put the Pacers up 31-0 at the break, giving them a running clock for the second half.
Broussard-Nash’s score came on the first play of the fourth quarter – a 5-yard run – on Hayes’ 15th play of the drive, which used up the entire third quarter.
Berlin went three-and-out on each of its first two possessions and Hayes turned the resulting short fields into scores with Jackson scoring on a 3-yard run and Eiland a 1-yarder for a quick 14-0 lead.
Berlin finally got going on its third drive. Jacob Moeller had a 13-yard run before completing a 13-yard pass to Corey Hill. Moeller followed it up with a 12-yard run to get the Bears (1-3, 0-1) to midfield.
Johnny Spinner followed with an 18-yard run and then broke free for what appeared to be a 32-yard touchdown on the next play, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. The Bears stalled and turned it over on downs.
Moeller rolled a 58-yard punt down to the Hayes 3, pinning the Pacers deep. But, Eiland broke free for an 87-yard touchdown run two plays later to push the lead to 28-0.
Berlin got going late in the fourth quarter. Moeller rolled right and found Hill for a 6-yard score with 8 seconds left.
“I think we just go back to the drawing board and continue to work hard,” Berlin coach Mark Nori said. “We have to remember that we’re young, we’re inexperienced and we’re going to make mistakes. I think the kids are realizing now that those mistakes are costly and you can’t get away with them at this level.”
Spinner finished with 90 yards rushing on 20 carries and Moeller threw for 90 yards on 6-of-13 passing to lead the Bears (1-3, 0-1).
“I think we look at what we’re doing and see this as an opportunity to get better,” Nori said. “Regardless of whatever the scoreboard says – we’ve gotta continue to do what we do and continue to teach off it and continue to coach off of it. There’s no speed like game speed.”
Both teams continue league play on the road next week. Berlin visits Worthington Kilbourne while Hayes travels to Dublin Scioto. Both games have 7 p.m. scheduled kickoffs.
“We’re going to celebrate for a couple of days, but Monday we’re right back at it looking forward to (Scioto),” Broussard-Nash said.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.