Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

That's the phrase which best describes Mike LoParo's first win at the helm of the Delaware Hayes High School football team.

The Pacers defeated host Buckeye Valley 17-14 in the opener last Friday, forcing three turnovers, dodging a blocked punt and watching Buckeye Valley's Evan Deffett narrowly miss wide left on a 29-yard field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter that would have tied the contest.

"It feels great to get this first win, but we were fortunate enough to overcome the (nine) penalties and a bunch of negative plays on offense," said LoParo, whose team will play Friday at Olentangy. "The defense played well with their backs to the wall after that blocked punt. We were so close to a number of big plays on offense, but our timing was a bit off. We'll work on repetitions, repetitions, repetitions. We need to fix a lot of little things and play better next week."

Delaware led 17-14 at halftime despite a slew of penalties which negated big plays, including the first play from scrimmage when a 60-yard pass play from Taylor Wood to Jacob Nicol to the Barons 4-yard line was called back for holding.

Buckeye Valley reached the Delaware 10 on its first possession of the second half, but Evan Welsh recovered a fumble by Scott Kidwell. On the Barons' next possession, Kees Burns intercepted a deflected pass from Erik Wall at the Pacers' 7.

"They were ball-hawking like good defenses do, trying to strip us on every play," Buckeye Valley coach Mike Marshall said. "We moved the ball in the second half, but they made all the big plays."

A high snap on a Delaware punt early in the fourth quarter resulted in a block and the Barons had a first-and-goal from the Pacers' 9. But three plays netted three yards and the Barons missed the field-goal attempt.

In the first quarter, Nicol scored on a 23-yard run and Jamey Hackett made the extra point and the Barons used a 25-yard touchdown pass from Wall to Steve Firkins and Deffett's point after to tie it. Kidwell added a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:10 left before halftime and Buckeye Valley led 14-7.

Nicol then went 62 yards with a pass from Wood to tie it with 2:10 remaining. Wood and Nicol connected on a 46-yard pass play to the Barons' 10 with under a minute left and Hackett made a 21-yard field goal.

"Nicol is our explosion guy," LoParo said. "He's a tremendous athlete we'll use all over the field. When we need a big play, we'll look for him."

COMING UP -- Olentangy lost 26 graduates from last season, but more importantly, is trying to get adjusted to its second split in five years. The Braves lost 49 players to first-year Olentangy Orange, which is in the OCC-Capital Division with the Pacers.

The Braves opened last Friday by beating Thomas Worthington 26-21.

Olentangy returned six starters on defense and one on offense after finishing 6-4 overall and third at 3-2 in the OCC-Cardinal.

One of those wins was 21-7 over Delaware. The Braves led 21-0 at halftime. Wood was 20-for-39 passing for 186 yards, but was intercepted three times.

Senior Preston Oglesbee is Olentangy's lone offensive returnee. The 6-foot-3, 252-pound guard also plays defensive end. He is joined on defense by returning starters Zach Kerin (6-5, 267) at tackle, Trevor Thrash at linebacker and Tom Carpenter, Ben Spragg and Joey Carlson at defensive back.

The Braves return three backs with 208 yards of rushing and will be led by quarterback J.J. Johnson, a senior who last year played for the junior varsity which went 9-0. Terwilliger said he plans to use the option more this season.

Kerin, who has made a verbal commitment to Bowling Green, will play center.

Hayes' Ben Steele (73), Franco Rossi and Evan Welsh combine to bring down Buckeye Valley's Cody Hughes during the second quarter of the opener. The Pacers won 17-14.