The Delaware Hayes High School football team and host Buckeye Valley both will be starting new eras when the season opens Friday, Aug. 29.
Mike Golden will be making his debut as Pacers coach and Matthew Stephens will be coaching his first game with the Barons.
Golden, who is in his 26th season as a head coach and has a 203-78 career record, replaced Zebb Schroeder, who left for Olentangy Orange. Schroeder compiled a 11-19 record in three seasons with the Pacers, including a 5-5 mark last year.
Stephens, a former assistant at Olentangy Liberty and Otterbein University who served as head coach at Cardington from 2006-09, replaced Mike Marshall, who stepped down after 11 seasons. The Barons finished 3-7 a year ago, including a 51-0 loss to the Pacers.
"I still get a little excited, but the game isn't about coaches," Golden said. "I'm more excited for the kids. This is their team. They sacrificed their time and effort and have worked hard and now they get to go out there and see where they stand and how we can continue to improve."
Both teams are concerned about their defense entering the season. The Barons allowed 373 points last season.
"One of our problems last year was that in several games we lost by many (points) and we weren't competitive enough," Stephens said. "This year, we aim to be competitive every week and hope to see constant improvement throughout the season."
Golden said the team must improve on its defensive performance during a scrimmage against Johnstown. The Pacers were outscored 210-206 last season.
"Good teams have good defenses, and we need to get there," he said. "It's a daily grind, but the more reps we get, the better we'll be.
"Buckeye Valley is moving to a spread offense and they're going to throw the ball around some. They've got some athletic receivers and they have the capability to spread the defense out and run with conviction. This is going to be a challenge right out of the gate."
Buckeye Valley averaged 12.9 points per game last season and was shut out five times. Entering the Barons' scrimmage Aug. 22 against the Columbus Crusaders, Stephens had yet to decide who would be his starting quarterback -- incumbent Tim Schilling or Jacob Mann. Both players are juniors.
Outside linebackers Josh Daughenbaugh, a senior, and Ethan Tucky, a junior, are expected to lead Delaware's defense, with senior Jake Brown playing middle linebacker.
On offense, Tucky and senior Ernest Bonsu will be the main cogs in Delaware's power-run offense. The Pacers also were unsettled on their quarterback entering their scrimmage Aug. 22 against Marion Harding, as junior Connor King and sophomore Cullen Moore were vying for the starting job.
Boys soccer team under new direction
First-year boys soccer coach Joshua Diehl said his team is eager to improve on last season, as it lost only three players to graduation.
Delaware finished 6-11 overall last year and went 2-5 in the OCC-Capital Division to place sixth, behind champion New Albany (6-0-1).
The Pacers opened Aug. 23 against Reynoldsburg after an Aug. 21 game against Northland was postponed because of weather. They begin league play Tuesday, Aug. 26, at Worthington Kilbourne.
"We have a hungry, hard-working group," Diehl said. " ... These boys collectively have shown me consistent grit and determination. I believe they have a high (ceiling) of potential."
Diehl replaced Nate Weakland, who stepped down after four seasons. The Pacers won only one of their first nine games last season before winning five in a row. They then closed the season with three consecutive losses.
Delaware struggled to score last season, but that could change with another year of experience for senior forwards Ben Gibbs and Kyle Holden, as well as seniors Mitchell Lucas and Evan Urrutia and juniors Nathan Lippincott and Justin Mckee in the midfield.
"Our forwards are fairly interchangeable," Diehl said. "Ben Gibbs and Kyle Holden will set an attacking tempo in our opponents' final third.
"Our midfield is learning how to be dynamic on both sides of the ball. Evan Urruita, Justin Mckee and Nathan Lippincott look to handle the ball and place it in dangerous areas."
Other forwards expected to contribute are seniors Nathan Stewart and Kevin Nyatsi and junior Kevin Dominguez. Others expected contributors in the midfield are junior Brandon Becker and freshman Brody Kannally.
Returning on defense are seniors Addison Carter and Graham Mergler. Also seeking action on the back end are juniors Carson Geissler, Ryan Krewson and Brad Peters and sophomore Curtis Herzog.
Carter was named honorable mention all-league last season.
"Our defense is learning how to compact and compress space," Diehl said. "Brad Peters, Addison Carter and Carson Geissler should give us tenacity in the back."
Juniors Ian Alger and Jonah Robinson both are expected to see time in goal.
"Every player on this team is valued and, collectively, are sharpening one another to develop and get better," Diehl said. "They have been very enjoyable to coach thus far."
Girls soccer team seeking more goals
The girls soccer team is hoping to find the right combinations in personnel to increase its offensive production.
The Pacers were shut out five times and held to one goal five times last season, as they finished 5-10-2 overall and went 1-4-1 in the OCC-Capital to tie Big Walnut for fifth, behind champion Olentangy Orange (6-0).
The Pacers, who went 1-7 in their first eight games last year, opened Aug. 19 with a 3-1 loss to Thomas Worthington. Their Aug. 21 game against Northland was postponed because of bad weather. They open league play Tuesday, Aug. 26, at home against Worthington Kilbourne.
Senior midfielder Anna Welch scored two minutes into the game against Thomas and senior goalkeeper Taryn Sweeney had five saves. The contest was shortened because of bad weather.
"We need to score more goals this year," second-year coach Drew Zellers said. "How well we are able to put the ball in the back of the net will determine how successful we are. We missed many (scoring) opportunities last year that cost us games. We also have to remain focused for 80 minutes and not give up late goals like last year."
Returnees include Sweeney, Welch, seniors Sydnee Buckley (midfielder), Hannah Joseph (defender/midfielder) and Rachel Yates (forward/midfielder), junior Helen Thomson (midfielder) and sophomores Ashley Smiley (midfielder) and Chloe Vessels (goalie).
Joseph was special mention all-league last season.
"Rachel Yates will be dangerous up top because she will fight hard for a ball, take players on 1-on-1 and hold the play up for others," Zellers said.
"Hannah Joseph will play outside forward or outside back. She can attack with pace and get behind defenders. She will be a pivotal role in our attack or from the back line.
"Anna Welch will be the playmaker in the middle. She sees the field really well and is great at getting other players involved."
Freshman Kaitlyn McKee is expected to lead the corps of defenders.
"She will be a solid player in the back and will grow during the season," Zellers said. "I'm looking forward to great things from her for the next four years."
Also looking to contribute are seniors Lexi Hackbarth (midfielder), Amber Otten (forward) and Tessa Pijanowski (midfielder), junior Elizabeth Blackburn (midfielder), sophomores Savannah Carter (defender), Aidan Garling (defender), Abbie Jennings (defender), Hannah Rafeld (forward), Ashley Tillou (midfielder) and Rachel Wyatt (defender) and freshmen Claire Arthur (defender), Lauren McMillin (midfielder) and Reagan Olsen (defender).
Aug. 21 -- vs. Northland
Aug. 23 -- at Reynoldsburg
*Aug. 26 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
Aug. 28 -- at Hilliard Darby
Aug. 30 -- vs. St. Charles
*Sept. 2 -- vs. Big Walnut
Sept. 5 -- at Marysville
*Sept. 9 -- vs. New Albany
*Sept. 16 -- at Olentangy Orange
Sept. 20 -- vs. Mansfield Madison
*Sept. 23 -- vs. Mount Vernon
Sept. 25 -- vs. Groveport
Sept. 27 -- at Buckeye Valley
*Sept. 25 -- vs. Franklin Heights
*Oct. 7 -- at Olentangy
Oct. 9 -- at Thomas Worthington
Aug. 19 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
Aug. 21 -- vs. Northland
*Aug. 26 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Aug. 28 -- at Dublin Coffman
Aug. 30 -- vs. Westerville Central
*Sept. 2 -- at Big Walnut
Sept. 5 -- vs. Marysville
Sept. 6 -- at Licking Heights
*Sept. 9 -- at New Albany
Sept. 13 -- vs. Hartley
*Sept. 16 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*Sept. 23 -- at Mount Vernon
Sept. 27 -- at Buckeye Valley
Sept. 30 -- at Franklin Heights
*Oct. 7 -- vs. Olentangy
Oct. 9 -- vs. Hilliard Darby