Hilliard Darby High School football coach John Santagata had to wait more than 16 hours to see if the adjustments his team decided to make during halftime of its home game against Dublin Jerome would work.
With the Panthers leading 10-7, the OCC-Cardinal Division contest that began at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 was suspended by lightning. It resumed at 2 p.m. Sept. 22.
As it turned out, Darby’s adjustments worked, as the Panthers’ defense limited the Celtics to 48 yards in the second half en route to a 20-7 victory.
Darby improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Cardinal, while Jerome dropped to 2-3 and 1-1.
“We decided to make some adjustments to how we were playing defense against their blocking schemes and we made some changes to our own blocking schemes, and then we had to sit on them for an entire night, having no idea how well they would work,” Santagata said. “I didn’t sleep very well last night because I had this game on my mind, but I’ll probably sleep better tonight.”
Hayden VanKirk rushed for 115 yards and scored on a 3-yard run to put Darby ahead 17-7 midway through the third quarter.
After Devon Booth intercepted a pass by Jake King and returned the ball to Jerome’s 12-yard line, Kyle Kaplan kicked a 38-yard field goal to put Darby ahead 20-7 with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left in the third quarter.
Darby slotback Caleb Day finished with six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 29 yards on five carries.
“My offensive line did all of the work for me and I usually went about three yards before anyone touched me,” VanKirk said. “I didn’t get much sleep last night, maybe five hours, because I was excited about this game. Playing this early on a Saturday reminds me of how it felt to play in a j.v. game.”
On its first possession, Jerome put together a 14-play, 60-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 1-yard run by Donovan Wilson.
The Panthers had an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter to tie the game at 7, as Chase Longwell threw a 31-yard scoring pass to Day.
Darby took a 10-7 lead when Kaplan kicked a 36-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
On Jerome’s opening drive of the second half, Wilson was stopped inches short of a first down on fourth-and-1 at Darby’s 43, giving the Panthers a short field and setting up their second touchdown.
Wilson rushed for 103 yards on 33 carries to pace Jerome, which had only 130 total yards.
“Hilliard Darby wasn’t more physical than us, but they were smarter than us on three or four key plays,” Jerome coach Mark Hundley said. “We definitely didn’t play as smart or look as sharp as we did last night.
“Did the delay have some kind of effect? It had to, but maybe it was that (Darby) was even more sharp today than they were last night.”
DJ--Wilson 1 run (Keller kick)
HD--Day 31 pass from Longwell (Kaplan kick)
HD--Kaplan 36 FG
HD--VanKirk 3 run (Kaplan kick)
HD--Kaplan 38 FG