Deven Ward has been steady in a tumultuous season for the Delaware Hayes football team.
And it was his steady play that led the Pacers to a 19-7 victory at Thomas Worthington in OCC-Cardinal action Friday night.
“Deven is just electric with the football,” Pacers defensive coordinator Justin Malivuk said. “Every time he touches it, you know he has a chance to break it.”
Ward ran through tackles and then outran the Thomas defense on a 77-yard touchdown run with 4:19 left in the second quarter to give Delaware (4-4, 1-3) a 7-0 lead. He finished with 140 yards rushing on 22 carries.
“I think he’s the fastest kid in Delaware County from track last year, but he’s also one of our strongest kids,” Malivuk said. “He’s almost a 500-pound squatter and you can tell that when he runs the football. He doesn’t step out of bounds – he’s always trying to get that extra yard and I think our team feeds off that.”
Nine players were in street clothes on the sideline, providing proof of the Pacers’ difficult season on the injury front.
“(We’re) just trying to get through it as a team – working hard,” Ward said. “(I’m) trying to lead the team as a senior. I feel like I couldn’t do anything without the team.”
Delaware was down to its third string quarterback at one point this season after Cullen Moore and Anthony Rodgers missed time nursing injuries.
“It would have been really easy for all the things that have gone wrong with injuries and Coach for body language and that stuff to go down, but it’s never happened, and that is a 100 percent credit to them,” Malivuk said.
Rodgers made it back for last week’s game against Dublin Jerome and Moore returned to action Friday for the first time since the Westland game.
“It’s been tough since we lost Cullen our third game and Anthony in the Dublin Scioto game … that’s a lot right there,” Pacers senior wide receiver Derrick Buford said. “After our last loss to Jerome, it just changed our mindset – we were like, even though they’re out, we’ve got to get better and better everyday.”
Moore hooked up with Buford often – nine times to be exact for 122 yards. It was a 29-yard completion on fourth down that set up a Grant Conahan 1-yard touchdown to push the lead to 13-0 with 7:50 left in the third quarter.
“I know how he can throw and how he does it … we just have that chemistry,” Buford said. “Every play I look and I see he’s looking dead at me – it’s just money right there.”
The Pacers’ defense bent, but didn’t break for most of the night. Thomas got in the red zone twice in the first half. One possession ended with a low field goal attempt that was blocked and the other was short and wide left.
Thomas (0-8, 0-5) had two more drives end on downs in the second half.
Moore was rusty in his return. He was picked off four times by the Thomas defense, including one by Dekarey Williams that was returned 38 yards to the Delaware 47 to set up the Cardinals’ only score.
“On every one of his interceptions, our kid had a chance (to catch the ball),” Malivuk said. “We like our guy’s chance in a 50-50 (situation). The safety got over there a little quicker than we thought on some of them, but our kid had a chance. I don’t think any of them were bad interceptions.”
Thomas quarterback Nick Kendig competed back-to-back passes to John Kallas totaling 19 yards and ran 16 yards on a third down play to set up DiJahn Davis’ 2-yard touchdown run with 11:15 left in the fourth.
Davis finished with 87 yards on 23 carries to lead the Cardinals. Kendig had 120 yards passing, going 13-for-30, and added 36 yards rushing on eight carries. Cameron Ryan had six grabs for 73 yards and Khalil Jones pulled in five balls for 38 yards.
Jones, Habib Bundu and Eric Clark also had interceptions for the Thomas defense.
“(Thomas is) a good team even though their record doesn’t show it – they’re a good team,” Buford said. “They fought their hearts out.”
It wasn’t all bad for Moore. He found Rodgers for a 25-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach with 4:26 left.
“I think when our players look out there and see him out there, it brings a sense of calm over them,” Malivuk said.
Moore finished 14-for-24 for 171 yards.
Delaware continues league play at home against Hilliard Darby Thursday night at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.