Of the six county schools which play football, Delaware Hayes High School is the only one which will battle all the others.

The Pacers played a non-league game at Big Walnut last season, but must return again after rejoining the OCC-Capital Division. The Golden Eagles beat Delaware 40-15 last season en route to finishing 14-1 and winning the Division III state championship.

Big Walnut hasn't lost to Delaware since joining the OCC in 1997. Only four of those 11 meetings have been closer than 15 points. Over the last three seasons, the Golden Eagles have outscored the Pacers 118-22, including 40-15 last year.

But Big Walnut coach Scott Wetzel thinks this season's Pacers are a stronger bunch.

"I've been coaching against Delaware for 16 years, and this is the best Delaware team I've seen in that time," he said. "This is far and away the best team they've had in that time. We saw them on film earlier this season against Olentangy, and they were very impressive. They're disciplined and very fundamentally sound. They're real solid in everything they do."

Both teams enter the contest 4-2 overall. Delaware is 3-0 in the OCC, and Big Walnut is 2-0. The Golden Eagles defeated non-league Acaster (Ontario) Tonnos 55-7 last Friday.

After losing to Olentangy 17-14 on Sept. 5 to fall to 1-2, the Eagles made changes and beat Watkins Memorial 34-7 on Sept. 12 and Olentangy Orange 28-7 on Sept. 19 in league play.

Cody Leitner has become the starter at running back, and Johnny Cannell has taken over at quarterback.

It also helped tremendously that the Eagles have gotten healthy. Linebacker Will Studlien, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior who was one of two players named Division III Defensive Player of the Year in the state last year, missed the first two games recovering from surgery last spring to repair a torn ACL and meniscus in his left knee.

Another player to miss a few games because of injury was tight end and defensive end Colton Griffis (6-6, 280).

"They are big and they're sitting there in their stock defense ready to pounce," Hayes coach Mike LoParo said. "They have a very aggressive defense led by Studlien, one of the best linebackers in the state regardless of division. It will take a tremendous effort by our offense, defense and special teams to beat them."

Other key players on defense trying to slow Delaware's option attack are linebacker Jacob Walaszek, nose guard Kalven Baer, safeties Nick Heiden and Eugene Cannaday and cornerback Brad Beltram.

They will keep their focus on quarterback Taylor Wood, who had completed 46 of 83 attempts for 837 yards, the fifth-most in the area. Three quarterbacks had already thrown for more than 1,100 yards, but all had attempted at least 122 passes.

"He's not just a good quarterback, he's a good athlete," Wetzel said. "He runs well and throws well. He can hurt you in so many ways. We've got to get pressure on him and get the ball out of his hands quickly."

Cannell, who replaced Jordan DeWitt at quarterback, has playmakers to throw to in wide receivers Heiden and Cannaday. Heiden had 16 catches for 165 yards and was among the area leaders through five games. Leading the charge on the line is tackle Jon Smith (6-2, 225).

The Pacers are led offensively by quarterback Taylor Wood, who passed for 1,470 yards last season and was named special mention all-district in Division I. Through five games this season, Wood had completed 46 of 83 passes for 837 yards.

In a 28-7 win over Mount Vernon on Sept. 19, he was 7-for-9 for 155 yards and two touchdowns and scored on a 4-yard run.

"He's not just a good quarterback, he's a good athlete," Wetzel said. "He runs well and throws well. He can hurt you in so many ways. We've got to get pressure on him and get the ball out of his hands quickly."

Other key players for Delaware include Kody Akers (RB/SS), Christion Brooks (FB/DE), Kees Burns (WR), Michael Corbett (WR/CB), Nate Decker-Kessler (WR), Jacob Nicol (RB), Franco Rossi (LB), Ben Steele (OL) and Evan Welsh (OL/LB).

Delaware, which employs a 50-shade defense, was allowing 15.8 points per game through five games.