DUBLIN — There was an electricity in the air when Delaware Hayes traveled to play at Dublin Scioto Friday night.
The visiting Pacers entered the contest with a perfect 4-0 record, while the Irish came in sporting a 3-1 mark. Mother Nature was apparently fired up for the showdown too, as a line of thunderstorms rumbled through the area just after kickoff.
The field at Scioto never did get rain, but plenty of lightning in the sky forced the teams off the field and fans out of the stands for more than an hour.
After the delay, fans were treated to an offensive explosion that saw both teams strike with big plays. It was Scioto (4-1) which made more of those plays in a 45-31 Irish victory.
A 73-yard third quarter bomb from Kyron Rogers to Kenyon Pannell gave the Irish a 31-21 advantage midway through the third quarter and allowed the home team to get a little separation.
The Scioto lead ballooned 38-24 when it successfully executed a reverse option pass where junior receiver Marty Neuhardt found Rogers for a touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Delaware got a 1-yard TD pass from Blake Eiland to Nabil Abdus-salaam which made it 38-31 late in the fourth quarter. But the Irish were able to go the length of the field and put the game away with a 22-yard touchdown from Rogers to Chad Ray.
Big plays were the difference in the game and Delaware coach Scott Wetzel knew his team, despite only punting once all night, didn’t make enough of them.
“We just gave up too many big plays,” Wetzel said. “That was the story of the game. They’ve got some big-time athletes with really good speed and we struggled with that. It’s probably the most speed we’ve seen all year.
“We put some scores on the board, but the bottom line is we can’t give up 45 points and expect to win a game. They made big plays when they had two, and any time we had a chance to get some momentum they kind of grabbed it back right away.”
It was the Scioto defense that came up with a big stop on 4th-and-1 just after play resumed. The Irish took over on downs at its own 33. Three plays later, Scioto’s Pannell caught a swing pass and raced 52 yards untouched for a touchdown. A successful PAT made it 14-7 Irish.
“That was probably the big momentum breaker right there,” Wetzel said of his team not converting on that key fourth down and Scioto scoring almost immediately afterward.
The Pacers answered back with a 27-yard TD pass from Blake Eiland to Nabil Abdus-salaam, tying the game at 14-14.
Scioto got a 19-yard scoring strike from Rogers to Tobias Thomas, which was answered by Delaware’s Eiland, who ran right through the heart of the Scioto defense for a 38-yard scoring run.
Scioto answered just before the half with a 33-yard field goal on the last play of the second quarter from Griffin Crosa to go to the locker room up 24-21.
The Pacers struck first in the non-conference tilt when Eiland scored on a 9-yard quarterback draw. A successful PAT made it 7-0 with 5:47 to play in the first quarter.
Scioto answered on its ensuing possession. A big kickoff return set the Irish up at their own 47-yard line. A few plays later, Pannell took a toss left, made a move to shake a defender and raced down the sideline 36 yards for a score. A PAT made it 7-7 with 4:24 to play in the opening quarter.
Wetzel knows his team has the second half of the season still to play and his Pacers are sitting at 4-1.
“If someone would have told me at this point in the season we’d be 4-1, I’d take it,” the coach said. “We’ve got to realize where we’re at and what we’re doing, we need to regroup and keep battling.”
Delaware will return home to host Worthington Kilbourne Friday, while Scioto will welcome in Hilliard Bradley.