By Ben Stroup
The Hayes offense did next to nothing against the Buckeye Valley defense through four quarters of quality football Friday in Delaware.
There was one play, though — a play that made all the difference in the Pacers’ 10-5 win.
With things knotted at three late in the fourth, facing a third-and-nine from his own 11-yard line, Hayes junior quarterback Cullen Moore stepped back in the pocket, waited for a second or two for Josh Hyatt to break free and fired a strike to the senior receiver for what turned into an 89-yard touchdown.
“I have to thank Coach E (Ed Golden) for that one,” Moore said of the play. “He pointed out they were playing with two high safeties who were up a little and thought we could get it over the top. After that, the line did a great job — they gave me all the time in the world to throw — Josh ran a good route and we got it.”
“I sold it at the line,” Hyatt said. “After I made my first steps, broke the corner down a little, I was gone.”
Hyatt outran the Baron back line for the last 50 or so yards, sprinting into the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning score with 5:11 left in the game.
Buckeye Valley made it interesting, getting the ball back for a pair of late scoring opportunities, but both came up empty. Inside enemy territory with less than three minutes to go, the Barons looked poised to bounce back. Miles Roberts ended the threat, though, intercepting a Ben Spaulding pass inside the 10.
BV had to burn all three timeouts, but got the ball back with some time left on the clock after stuffing three straight Hayes runs. The Pacers lined up to punt, but the snap sailed through the hands of Noah Watts and out of the back of the end zone for a safety — a play which tightened the margin to 10-5 with 46 seconds to play.
The Barons gained possession near midfield after the ensuing free kick, but another pick, this time by Elijah Harrell, sealed the deal. The interception was BV’s fourth turnover of the second half, that after playing a nearly mistake-free first two quarters.
It was a good first half by both teams despite a glaring lack of scoring … very few penalties, no turnovers and solid play on the defensive side of the ball.
The offenses had their moments, BV’s coming after the defense stopped Moore on a fourth-and-seven keeper from the BV 32-yard line.
Ben Kidwell got the Barons’ initial drive of the season off to a good start with a big gainer to midfield. A short pitch and catch between Spaulding and Braxton Wells moved the chains on a third-and-five play, but back-to-back Pacer sacks looked to end the threat.
BV had other plans, though, pulling off a successful fake punt when Kidwell took a direct snap and rumbled to the Hayes 34.
Another good Kidwell run, this time for nine yards, pushed the ball into senior kicker Sam Scharff’s range, and a seven-yard run on the next play set BV up 1st-and-10 inside the 20.
The Pacer D stood tall after that, but Scharff’s 36-yard field goal split the uprights to make it a 3-0 game with :42 left in the first — capping an eight-minute drive.
Hayes looked poised to answer, with Moore picking up 32 yards on a 3rd-and-12 play before Ethan Tucky broke loose for 22 yards, but the Baron defense stiffened. BV forced a 43-yard field goal — a kick the Barons blocked to keep the Pacers off the scoreboard.
The teams traded possessions in the third before Watts hammered home a 25-yard field goal to even things at three and set up the wild finish.
Neither team moved the ball much, with Hayes managing a 253-188 edge in total yardage. Moore led the Pacers with 103 yards through the air and 94 on the ground while Kidwell finished with a game-high 108 rushing yards for the Barons.
Gabe Miller was BV’s leading receiver with 35 yards.
Follow Ben Stroup on Twitter @delgazette_ben.