Mike LoParo is getting to know the back roads of Delaware County well.

Mike LoParo is getting to know the back roads of Delaware County well.

The Delaware High School football team won his debut as coach over Buckeye Valley 17-14 last Friday, and next up is a trip to Olentangy on Friday. The Pacers are the only team in the county to play all other schools in the county, with contests also against Olentangy Liberty (Sept. 5, home), Big Walnut (Oct. 3, away) and Olentangy Orange (Oct. 24, away).

"The first weeks of the season are pivotal," said LoParo, who went to Delaware from North Union and previously was an assistant at DeSales. "If you can be successful right out the gate, it'll give your kids a great deal of confidence."

Olentangy has lost to Delaware only once -- 21-7 in 2004 -- under 19th-year coach Ed Terwilliger. Last year the Braves scored three touchdowns in the first half and cruised to a 21-7 victory.

"(County games) are a whole different game," said Terwilliger, whose team won its opener over Thomas Worthington 26-21 last Friday. "There's so much emotion involved with it. You know a county team is going to play to the best of their ability and take their best shot at you."

LoParo has instituted some changes at Delaware that have been noticeable.

"Delaware is running more and passing to keep defenses honest," Olentangy defensive back Ben Spragg said. "It's a completely different look than what we saw (last Friday). Thomas ran everything out of a shotgun and was passing a lot.

"When you're playing a balanced team like Delaware, you have to trust in your reads and go from there. Tackling in the open field is a big thing."

Delaware senior quarterback Taylor Wood was first-team all-OCC Central Division and special mention all-district in Division I last year, completing 114 of 214 passes for 1,470 yards. Last Friday, Wood competed four of 12 passes for 105 yards and rushed for 83 yards on 13 carries.

Wood's top target is Jacob Nicol, who last Friday had a 62-yard touchdown catch and another reception of 46 yards to set up a field goal. He also had a 60-yard reception that was negated by a holding call.

"We molded our system to fit what Taylor does," LoParo said. "He is a tremendous option quarterback and we gave a variety of ways to throw the ball and run the ball. It's exciting to watch things open up.

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

"Delaware is very disciplined and methodical," Terwilliger said. "The thing that concerns me is their ability to move the ball and burn up a ton of clock."

The Braves will need to work on taking care of the ball after struggling with turnovers and miscues in the second half against Thomas.

Olentangy was up 26-7 when Thomas quarterback Sam Bohon hit Vance Frederick for a 16-yard touchdown. Olentangy then botched a punt, which led to Jake Sharick's 2-yard touchdown run to pull the Cardinals within five points. Olentangy missed a 48-yard field goal with 2:55 left to set up one last try for the Cardinals.

Delaware displayed an opportunistic defense last Friday. Buckeye Valley drove inside the Delaware 10 three times in the second half but was turned away each time.

On the first possession of the second half, middle linebacker Evan Welsh recovered a fumble by Scott Kidwell, and on the second possession free safety Kees Burns intercepted Eric Wall.

Buckeye Valley also recovered a blocked punt on the Delaware 9 but gained only three yards before missing a field-goal attempt.

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

Next game

OLENTANGY vs. DELAWARE

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Last meeting: Last year, Olentangy 21-7

Delaware to date: Defeated Buckeye Valley 17-14

Top Pacers: Kees Burns, Jacob Nicol, Evan Welsh and Taylor Wood