Last year, the annual rivalry game between the Delaware Hayes and Buckeye Valley football teams almost didn’t happen.
The entire season was up in the air for a while, and when the details of what a season would look like in the middle of a global pandemic were finally sorted out, non-league games weren’t on the agenda.
Until they were.
“Last year, I think we were all taken aback by the fact we would only be able to play league games, then a playoff and then be asked to pick up the remaining weeks,” Buckeye Valley Athletic Director Mike Yinger said. “(Delaware Hayes AD) Steve (Glesenkamp) and I identified almost immediately we needed to play the game … it means so much to our students, community and faculty, and having something ‘normal’ to look forward to made the fall bearable.”
Yinger said setting it up turned out to be the easy part. The hard part was getting to Week 10.
“Steve and I talked it through to find a date we could both put down as an almost guarantee,” he said. “Since Hayes opted out of the playoffs, they waited to see how our run went, but Week 10 was the best option.
“Thankfully, both teams were healthy and not in (COVID-19) protocol, so we were able to play one last time on the old field at Buckeye Valley.”
The Pacers edged the Barons, 21-14, in last year’s contest — a game which turned out to be the last of the season for both teams. Hayes finished 2-8 while BV was 3-7. Both, though, are looking for bounce-back seasons this fall.
It all starts Friday as the teams meet again, this time to open the season.
Pacer coach Scott Wetzel said he’s glad to have the Barons first, and is looking forward to a full non-league slate.
“It’s nice to start with a big rivalry, with a lot of hype and a huge crowd,” he said. “A lot of teams don’t get to play in a game like this. The non-league in general is huge for us as we’re still trying to put the pieces together.”
The huge crowd wasn’t an option last year as spectators were limited. This year, though, the capacity restrictions have been lifted. Tickets are available at the schools’ main offices for $7. Gates open at Hayes Friday at 5:30 p.m. with kickoff set for 7.
The Barons haven’t beaten the Pacers since 2011, when Shawn Free snagged an eight-yard pass from Kevan Green on the first play of double overtime to lead BV to a 38-32 victory. That game turned out to be a classic, with Hayes’ Taylor Adair answering a nine-yard TD run from Free midway through the fourth quarter with a 12-yarder of his own to even the game at 32 with 1:47 left in regulation.
Since then, it’s been all Hayes.
The Pacers, winners of each of the last nine meetings, have been dominant at times. They won 51-0 in 2013 and 35-0 in 2019. The rest of the games have been tight, with four of the other seven decided by a touchdown or less.