The Delaware Hayes High School boys soccer team is hoping its recent play is a sign that it is beginning to peak as the postseason nears.
The Pacers had won four of their previous five games and were 7-4-2 overall before playing Thomas Worthington on Oct. 6.
"Getting ready and prepared for the postseason is one of the things we work on every year," coach Nate Weakland said. "Ending the year with confidence gives the team a boost and helps them mentally. It shows them that they can compete with anyone and be a force."
The Pacers travel to Olentangy on Tuesday, Oct. 9, for an OCC-Capital game and conclude the regular season Thursday, Oct. 11, at home against Watterson. The draw for the Division I district tournament is Sunday, Oct. 7, with play beginning Oct. 17.
"I think a winning season would be huge for our team," Weakland said. "We had a rough couple of years and winning hasn't come easy. We have improved every year, but just being competitive is getting tough. The guys want to win. The seniors only had two wins their sophomore year and only six last year, so to send them off with a winning season would be amazing."
One of the keys to the Pacers' success has been a marked improvement in their offensive production. Through 12 games, they had 32 goals and had scored two or more goals in seven games while being shut out twice. Last season, Delaware had 40 goals in 18 games, scored two or more goals eight times and was shut out six times en route to finishing 6-11-1.
"I feel very good about our offense and the goals we have scored, especially since we have had trouble scoring in the previous seasons," Weakland said. "(Senior midfielder) Phoenix Neitzelt has been a very effective player. He has controlled the middle and is leading us in scoring. (Senior forward) Nate Spahr has started to step up and play well, too."
Neitzelt led the Pacers with 14 goals through 12 games.
"Defensively, Jordan Carlson and Bryan Neitzelt are shutting teams down," Weakland said. "Those two are a very strong defensive center and, along with Tyler Zinader (at left back), teams are finding trouble attacking. Tommy Gibbs hasn't had a ton of work in net, but he is controlling his box and making the saves needed when he gets action."
Despite the Pacers' progress, Weakland knows there remains room for improvement.
"We have to stop giving up weak goals," he said. "We have not really given up a goal in the run of play. Almost all of the goals we have allowed have come from costly errors on our part -- turnovers in our end, set piece mix-ups and not marking on corners. If we can (eliminate those), we are a very competitive and dangerous team."
Godfrey advances to district in boys golf
Freshman Grant Godfrey of the boys golf team will compete in the Division I district tournament Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Apple Valley.
Godfrey shot an 80 in the sectional tournament Oct. 2 at The Players Club at Foxfire to earn the second of four individual district-qualifying spots. Also advancing individually were Canal Winchester's Gentry Thompson (72), Grove City's Andrew Ray (77) and Reynoldsburg's Darnell Ellis (82).
"Grant had a good day overall but could've gone even lower," coach Mike Nesselroad said. "But for a freshman competing in the postseason for the first time, it was still impressive."
The top three individuals not on a qualifying team at district advance to the state tournament Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
The Pacers shot their second-best round of the season in the 12-team sectional to finish eighth (358), behind champion New Albany (298) as the top four teams advanced to district. Also advancing from the sectional site were defending state champion Dublin Jerome (305), Teays Valley (313) and Olentangy (323).
"To finish eighth and shoot a 358 after shooting a 402 to finish dead last in the sectional at the same place last year is a nice improvement," Nesselroad said. "We're so young. We made some bad golf decisions in the round and still had our second-best round of the year, so that says something."
Cole Haferman carded an 83 and missed joining a playoff for the final district-qualifying position by one stroke. Also competing for the Pacers were Dan Van Brimmer (97), Kyle Gabbert (98) and Cody Ross (107).
"Cole Haferman probably wishes he had about three holes back because he could've at least been in the playoff for the final spot," Nesselroad said.
Freshman C.C. Barger shot a 104 in a Division I girls sectional Oct. 2 at Oakhaven, as Olentangy's Taylor Dencer (86), Olentangy Orange's Brittany Stevens (89) and Dresden Tri-Valley's Alex Weingarth (90) secured the three individual qualifying spots for the district tournament on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Cooks Creek.
Football team getting ready for Jackets
The football team plays host to one of the OCC-Capital's surprise teams so far this season for homecoming on Friday, Oct. 12.
Mount Vernon was 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Capital before playing Big Walnut on Oct. 5. The Yellow Jackets' lone setback was a 21-0 loss to Mansfield Madison on Sept. 7. Through six games, they had not allowed more than 24 points and were allowing an average of 16.8 points per game.
Mount Vernon, which finished 2-8 last season, was averaging 24 points through six games.
"Mount Vernon has some good, hard-nosed kids and they have a nice offensive mix," coach Zebb Schroeder said. "They spread you out to run and throw and then they can condense the line and pound it right at you. They are very physical. All 11 players get after it and come right at you."
The Pacers, who played Orange on Oct. 5, fell to 1-5 overall and 0-3 in league play with a 26-13 loss to New Albany on Sept. 28.
Delaware trailed New Albany 7-0 at halftime but missed an opportunity to tie the game before intermission. The Pacers had reached the New Albany 4-yard line before quarterback Alex Rafeld was intercepted.
New Albany led 20-0 entering the fourth quarter before Rafeld connected with Jante' Wright on a 6-yard scoring pass to pull the Pacers within 20-7. After the Eagles scored again, Rafeld threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Adair for the game's final points.
It was the fewest points allowed by the Pacers since opening the season with a 35-23 win over Buckeye Valley on Aug. 24.
"Our game plan was to limit New Albany's possessions with our ball control," Schroeder said. "Our defense played well and is gaining some confidence.
"There were people outside our locker room that were pleased that we kept the score close, but that's not our goal. We're out there to win and we're disappointed to lose. If our offense would've capitalized on some early scoring chances, we could've come out with a win."
As the result of injuries and personnel changes, Delaware started 17 underclassmen against New Albany.
"We started a bunch of sophomores, especially on defense," Schroeder said. "We had Lamar Rhymes at one tackle, Shane Sand at one end and a bunch of others. We had a freshman linebacker, Ethan Tucky, play the entire game."
Schroeder said he spent considerable time in film study the day after the loss to New Albany, showing the players how close they are to breaking through.
"It's amazing how often you can see that 10 guys are doing the right things on a certain play and that one player misses an assignment or loses focus and doesn't do his (part)," he said. "That's the difference between a 2- or 3-yard gain and a 7- or 8-yard gain. That changes the play-calling and affects everything. If every player stays focused and does his (part) on every play, we can find a whole lot more success."