Bad luck caught up with the Delaware Hayes High School boys soccer team in the Division I district tournament.
Senior goalkeeper Tommy Gibbs was injured during pregame warm-ups of the Pacers' second-round game against eighth-seeded Pickerington Central on Oct. 20 at Westerville South. He was unable to play and Delaware was forced to scramble its lineup and move players to new positions.
The result was a 5-1 loss.
The Pacers, who were seeded 17th and had beaten Worthington Kilbourne 2-1 in the first round Oct. 17, finished 10-6-2.
"Our backup keeper is a freshman who saw little action this season, so we moved (junior) Bryan Neitzelt from sweeper to keeper, which moved (senior midfielder) Columbus Millet (to sweeper) and altered several positions," said coach Nathan Weakland, whose team lost to Central 2-0 on Sept. 27. "We ended up depending on freshmen at forwards. That changed our possession-style attack and we were uncomfortable, out of positions at times, and it was just a very unfortunate way to go out."
The tournament loss marked the third time in the last nine seasons that Delaware posted double-digit wins but failed to reach a district semifinal. The Pacers went 11-4-2 in 2008 but lost to Reynoldsburg 2-1 in a shootout in the second round and went 11-5-2 in 2004, losing to St. Charles 1-0 in the second round.
In the tournament contest against Central, Delaware took a 1-0 lead into halftime on a goal from junior midfielder Clay Sparks seven minutes into the game. Senior midfielder Phoenix Neitzelt nearly made it 2-0 before halftime, but his shot hit off a post.
"We had a couple breakdowns in the back and fell behind 2-1 maybe 10 to 15 minutes into the second half," Weakland said. "Then we gave up a penalty kick and they converted to make it 3-1. That sucked the life out of us. We didn't play with much heart after that and they got a few more goals."
Against Kilbourne, Delaware got second-half goals from senior forward Nate Spahr and sophomore midfielder/forward Ben Gibbs.
The Pacers went 3-3-1 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Big Walnut for fourth, behind Olentangy Orange (7-0), New Albany (5-2) and Olentangy (5-2) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (3-4), Mount Vernon (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7).
Delaware loses five seniors in Gibbs, Millet, Spahr, Phoenix Neitzelt and Jordan Carlson (stopper). Carlson, Neitzelt and Spahr were four-year starters.
Phoenix Neitzelt (16 goals, 12 assists), Spahr (11 goals) and Carlson (6 goals, 5 assists) were the Pacers' scoring leaders. Gibbs had 89 saves and six shutouts.
"It's going to be difficult to replace them all," Weakland said of his seniors. "Three four-year starters who were your top scorers the past two seasons and your tri-captains ... that will be really tough."
Phoenix Neitzelt was named OCC-Capital Player of the Year and was joined on first-team all-league by Carlson. Spahr was second-team all-league.
In addition to Sparks, Ben Gibbs, Bryan Neitzelt, expected to return are juniors Colton Richard (midfielder), Ridge Snyder (forward) and Tyler Zinader (defender), sophomores Addison Carter (defender) and Joseph Sanfillipo (outside midfielder) and freshman Nathan Lippincott (midfielder/forward).
Richard and Snyder both scored five goals and Zinader had seven assists. Bryan Neitzelt was special mention all-league and Zinader was honorable mention all-league.
"We'll have some experience back at most positions," Weakland said. "We have three starters in the back with Bryan Neitzelt, Zinader and Carter, we'll have Sparks in the central midfield and Snyder at forward. We'll need to work hard to get a keeper ready and we'll have to be strong defensively in front of the keeper to give him time to adjust to the varsity game."
Runners' season ends at district
The boys and girls cross country teams ended their season in the Division I district meet Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial.
The girls team scored 265 points to finish eighth in the 15-team district 2 meet, as the top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced to the regional meet held Oct. 27 at Pickerington North.
Dublin Coffman (31) won the district title, with Hilliard Bradley (86), Gahanna (95), Pickerington North (106) and Olentangy Liberty (111) rounding out the top five. DeSales (193) and Marietta (245) finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
Emily Richards led the Pacers, finishing 25th in 21 minutes, .86 seconds. Also scoring were Sammi Piroska (49th, 22:28.43), Sierra Mollenkopf (60th, 23:09.52), Sam Curtain (64th, 23:27.86) and Harlee Mollenkopf (67th, 23:36.32).
The boys team finished 12th (312) in the 15-team district 2 meet, behind regional-qualifiers Hilliard Davidson (34), Lancaster (59), Bradley (99), Hilliard Darby (131) and Coffman (141).
Jason Watkins finished 41st (18:12.37) to lead the Pacers, followed by Thomas Oliver (56th, 18:32.48), Jacob Rumbalski (64th, 18:47.34), Drew Williams (75th, 19:34.37) and Sid Campbell (76th, 19:35.43).
Football team finishes season
The football team finished the season Oct. 26 against Olentangy.
The Pacers entered the game 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the OCC-Capital after beating Franklin Heights 25-0 on Oct. 19 for their second win in a row. They defeated Mount Vernon 21-14 on Oct. 12.
Delaware limited Franklin Heights to just 5 total yards. Shawn Johnson returned a fumble 2 yards for a score and teamed with Andrew Sierawski to record a safety.
Also against the Falcons, Taylor Adair scored on a 2-yard run and quarterback Alex Rafeld was 8-for-12 passing for 115 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Thoeun Sorn. Rafeld also ran for a two-point conversion and threw to Adair for another conversion.
Through nine games, Rafeld was 119-for-217 passing for 1,640 yards. Jante' Wright had 46 receptions for 548 yards and Caleb Howell had 38 for 673. Wright also was among area leaders with five interceptions.