The Delaware Hayes High School football team limped into the OCC-Capital Division schedule last Friday with a 2-2 record.

The Delaware Hayes High School football team limped into the OCC-Capital Division schedule last Friday with a 2-2 record.

After preseason hopes had soared about a possible return to the Division I playoffs, coach Mike LoParo told his players to forget about those thoughts.

"We talked about that this week," said LoParo, who guided the program to its initial postseason berth in his first year with the team last season. "We need to put those thoughts away and focus on improving and contending for the league championship. We need to build some consistency and confidence, especially on offense."

The Pacers played Mount Vernon last Friday and will play Friday at Watkins Memorial.

"It will be good to get into OCC play," senior quarterback Kody Akers said. "It's a new season for us. We've had a few tough games in a row now, but I think we're ready to turn things around and go out and try to win (the league championship)."

Although LoParo wanted his players to forget about the playoffs right now, he also didn't want them to give up on the season.

"He told us that we were 2-2 at this point last season and went on to qualify for the playoffs," senior fullback Jacob Naegele said. "So we can do it again. But we need to focus on one game at a time and just get better and better every week."

Last season, the Pacers weren't thinking about the playoffs until late in the season because it likely wasn't imaginable that a team that opened 1-2 and had never reached the postseason would win six of its final seven.

If Delaware is to make such a run this season, it will have to improve its option offense. The Pacers had struggled on that side of the ball in every game except the opener when they beat Buckeye Valley 37-8. In the following three games, they averaged 8.0 points per game, beating Olentangy 17-14 on Sept. 4, losing to Olentangy Liberty 31-0 on Sept. 11 and falling to Hilliard Davidson 38-7 on Sept. 18.

"We've played three pretty good defenses the past three weeks," LoParo said. "But we still need to iron out some things, which I think we did in practices this week. We need to break a few big plays and score some points for our confidence. We also need to do that, or at least not have so many three-and-outs, in order to give our defense a rest. We can rely on the defense to do it all. They're getting worn down."

That was the case against Davidson, as Delaware ran 31 plays in the first half compared to 21 for Davidson. The Pacers had 139 total yards at halftime and the Wildcats had 103. That's why Delaware trailed only 10-7.

In the second half, the Pacers netted 22 yards and also gave up a fumble which was returned for a touchdown, thus getting an extra offensive possession. Still, Davidson totaled 222 yards in the second half.

"We got back to the basics, the fundamentals this week in practice," Akers said. "We had some high-intensity practices, and I think the missed blocks and missed assignments will be reduced now."

Against Liberty, Delaware had seven fumbles, many on center-quarterback exchanges and others on ballhandling in the option reads.

"Our timing has been off at times," Naegele said. "If I get there late, it throws things off. But I think Kody's reads are usually right. We just need to get into a rhythm and we need to make sure we're getting our blocks and playing assignment football. If one thing goes wrong, we're out of sync and it can ruin the play. We've all got to be on the same page."

Watkins Memorial was 1-3 before playing New Albany last Friday. The Warriors had scored more than 17 points just once, in their 54-20 win over Medway, (Ava, Ontario, Canada) in the third week. They lost their league opener to Big Walnut 27-7 on Sept. 18. They were allowing 22.5 points per game.

"Watkins Memorial is usually a real, real physical football team, but coach (Jeff) Severino was disappointed about the Big Walnut game because he said that was the first time he could recall his team being outphysicaled," LoParo said. "So I expect they were working real hard at getting their kids back to being physical and we'll probably see that when we go to their place."

Clay Nixon runs the I-formation offense at quarterback and Bryce Phillips is the tailback with Devonte Marable and Cory Christman the top receivers. Chad Fitch (5-foot-9, 240 pounds) and Logan Jackson (6-1, 225) are the top linemen.

Fitch and Jackson are also solid in the Warriors' 50-base defense. Tackle Mike Moorehouse and linebackers Tyler Cruikshank and Jake Kincaid also are key players on defense, as well as Nixon, Christman and Marable in the secondary.

"Hopefully we'll be going in there with some confidence and some improvement with our offensive production," LoParo said. "We're going to need to be good on offense, defense and special teams if we're going to win some games and compete for a league championship."

Next game


•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

•Last meeting: 2008, Delaware 41-14

•Delaware (2-2, 0-0 OCC-Capital) to date: Defeated Buckeye Valley 37-8; def. Olentangy 17-14; lost to Olentangy Liberty 31-0; lost to Hilliard Davidson 38-7; played Mount Vernon last Friday

•Watkins Memorial (1-3, 0-1 OCC-Capital) to date: Lost to Walnut Ridge 13-7; lost to Licking Heights 30-17; def. Medway, Ontario 54-20; lost to Big Walnut 27-7; played New Albany last Friday

•Top Pacers: Kody Akers (QB), Keith Butts (DE), Troy Decker (DT), Dalton Hartley (C/NG), Jacob Naegele (FB), Vidal O'Connor (SB), Tino Rivera (LB), Franco Rossi (LB), and Nick Spalsbury (G)

•Top Warriors: Cory Christman (WR/DB), Tyler Cruikshank (LB), Chad Fitch (OL/DL), Devonte Marable (WR), Clay Nixon (QB) and Bryce Phillips (RB)