There promises to be a festive atmosphere for the Delaware Hayes High School football team's season opener Friday, Aug. 25, at home against Buckeye Valley.

The contest also marks the return of Pacers coach Mike Golden, who missed the final six games last season while undergoing treatment for lung and throat cancer. Delaware was 3-1 when he took a leave of absence but finished 4-6.

The Pacers are seeking their sixth consecutive victory over the Barons.

"This game is always important because of the proximity between the schools," said Golden, who is in his fourth season with the Pacers. "I know the kids are very excited to open the season, and to do it against a rival is icing on the cake. The winner has bragging rights around town for a full year.

"But we've got to buckle down, stay calm and poised and not let other things distract us. We've got to be prepared to block and tackle and do all of the fundamental things we've worked on."

Delaware, which also is seeking its first winning season since finishing 6-4 in 2009, defeated the Barons 20-13 last season.

"We've lost five straight to Hayes and our kids are hungry," said fourth-year Buckeye Valley coach Matt Stephens, whose team also went 4-6 last season. "We're going to go over there in a great atmosphere in a beautiful facility and play a big crosstown rival.

"The first game is always big enough. Then it's a rivalry game where these kids see each other all the time and the words have already begun on social media. Everyone in Delaware has an allegiance, so the community is usually divided for (the week)."

Buckeye Valley, a Division III school, is expected to be led on offense by first-year starting quarterback Grant Owens, tailback Trent Davies, fullback Teren Wycoff and receiver Joey Verdes.

Last year, Davies ran for 880 yards and 14 touchdowns on 145 carries and caught 27 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns, while Wycoff ran for 215 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries and Verdes caught 39 passes for 449 yards.

According to Stephens, Davies suffered a knee injury on July 31, had arthroscopic surgery for a meniscus tear and should be ready to play in the opener.

The Barons' offensive line includes seniors Leo D'Amico, Max Rotondo and Ethan Stambaugh and sophomore Rance Wycoff.

"We have decent size on the offensive and defensive lines and we've got some depth, which is unusual for us," Stephens said. "We are very excited about that. This is the first time since I've been here that I think we can match up fairly well against (Delaware) on the line."

For Delaware, seniors Braden Donges, Glenn Pauley and Kole Shaw are expected to be leaders on the offensive line and in the four-player defensive front, although Pauley may see time at linebacker after recording 61 tackles, including nine for loss, and three sacks last year.

"Defensively, we've simplified some things," Golden said. "But we're expecting big things on both sides of the ball from those three. They're just strong and play with great intensity."

On offense, the Pacers will have a first-year full-time starter at quarterback in Kael Gannon, who gained experience last season when 2017 graduate Cullen Moore battled injuries during the final seven weeks.

The Pacers also had to replace tailback Deven Ward and receiver Derrick Buford. Isaiah Moore and Jahi Broussard-Nash are expected to be the top running backs and receivers/slotbacks Ryan Daughenbaugh and Sam Lagando are expected to get many touches.

Teren Wycoff, a fourth-year starter who had a team-high 115 tackles last season, is expected to lead the Barons' 4-4 defense from his inside linebacker position.

Verdes (DB), Travis Pennington (LB), Stambaugh (DL) and Rance Wycoff (DL) are other leaders.

Girls golf team
starts strong

The girls golf team got off to a strong start against new competition in the OCC-Cardinal Division.

The Pacers are in second place (10-2) midway through the four-round league tournament, behind Dublin Jerome (12-0) and ahead of Hilliard Bradley (8-4), Worthington Kilbourne (6-6), Dublin Scioto (4-8), Thomas Worthington (2-10) and Hilliard Darby (0-12).

The third round is Aug. 29 at Royal American.

"I'm very optimistic about this team," first-year coach Rob Stultz said. "We all know we're fighting for second place behind Jerome and we've had a good start and are building confidence."

Stultz, who is the second coach in the program's five seasons, coached Dempsey Middle School the past three seasons. He replaced Steve Lehman.

The Pacers placed sixth (9-19) in the OCC-Cardinal last year, but only Jerome, Scioto and Delaware returned in the revamped division.

Junior Sophie Zehner led the way in the first round Aug. 9 at Westchester, shooting an 88 as the Pacers totaled 388 to place second behind Jerome (303). Freshman Kenzie Collett carded a 95, followed by seniors Riley Geiger (100) and Kelly Horvath (107) and sophomore Alyssa Stultz (119), the coach's daughter. All but Collett are returnees.

In the second round Aug. 15 at Mentel Memorial, the Pacers had a 372 to place second behind Jerome (310). Stultz led with an 87, followed by Collett (88), Geiger (98) and Horvath (99).

Also returning is sophomore Francesca Sferrella. Completing the roster are freshmen Nora Daly, Faith Eden and Gabrielle Weckerly.

Last season, 2017 graduate Bailey Hager became the program's first Division I district qualifier. At district, she shot a 96 at The Links at Groveport to place 40th of 54 golfers. She carded an 86 in the sectional at Mentel Memorial to earn the third and district-qualifying berth.

Delaware finished fifth (387) in the 10-team sectional. Zehner shot 89 to finish 12th overall, followed by Geiger (105), Horvath (107) and Stultz (111).

Gazarek leading
boys golf team

The boys golf team showed great improvement from the first round of the OCC-Cardinal tournament to the second.

The Pacers chopped a league-best 17 strokes off their first-round score, shooting a 361 at Apple Valley on Aug. 14 after posting a 378 at Turnberry on Aug. 8. Although the Pacers finished last in both rounds, Thomas Worthington was the only other team to drop more than seven shots in the second round.

"We will get better throughout the season because these kids are very hard workers," first-year coach Andy Graham said. "We've got nine kids in the program, with just two seniors, and we have eight eighth-graders. So the future looks bright."

Graham, who also is the girls track and field coach, replaced John Hague III, who led the program for two years.

Sophomore Luke Gazarek shot an 83 at Apple Valley and was followed by freshman Hunter Piroska (89), senior Logan Keeder (94), sophomore Zack Raquepaw (95) and freshman Ben Madden (95). Scoring at Turnberry were Gazarek (92), Keeder (94), Madden (94) and Piroska (98).

Also on the squad are senior Alex Schumacher, juniors Shaun Bendele and Jackson Weller and freshman Alden Savon.

The Pacers will enter the third round of league play Aug. 30 at Darby Creek with a 0-12 record, last behind Jerome (12-0), Thomas (10-2), Scioto (8-4), Kilbourne (6-6), Bradley (4-8) and Darby (2-10).

Keeder, Garazek and Raquepaw were on the roster last year when Delaware finished 1-23 in the league and placed eighth (365) in a 12-team sectional at Darby Creek. The Pacers lost 2017 graduate David Kelly and sophomore Jake Ross, who is academically ineligible for not having enough class credits accumulated.

"Losing Jake was tough, but he's out here trying to help these kids get better," Graham said. "We're excited about the future as these kids get better, Jake comes back and with all the young kids coming into the program."

Six players return
for tennis team

The girls tennis team returned six letterwinners, including four who were in the postseason lineup last season.

Senior Paris Knipp and juniors Renae Haferman and Grace Brinkmoeller competed in singles in the Division I sectional at Upper Arlington last season and senior Ericka Johnson competed in doubles.

Knipp reached a district-qualifying match before losing to UA's Wendy Shi 6-0, 6-0.

"Paris played second singles last year and Grace played first singles," said second-year coach Dede Hibinger, whose team finished 7-11 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Cardinal last fall. "They will be at the top of our lineup again this year. Renae played third singles and had our best record at 11-9. She will play third singles or move to first doubles to join Ericka."

Also returning are senior Serena Ishwar and sophomore Emmaline Riggs.

Up from junior varsity last season are senior Jaela Rodela and juniors Kailah Breece, Sarah Midura and Victoria Ungashick.

Completing the roster is freshman Grace Martin, who is vying for third singles or first doubles.

"All three of our returning singles players experienced some success last year and look to build upon that," Hibinger said. "Grace Martin is showing potential to make an impact somewhere in the varsity lineup."

The Pacers lost 2017 graduates Anna England and Emily Miklas from the lineup, as well as sophomore Bridget Johnson, whose family moved out of state this summer.

"This year's team is quite deep with at least 11 players in the mix for varsity playing time," Hibinger said. "We are certainly deeper and more competitive this year."

Delaware lost its opener 3-2 to Big Walnut on Aug. 11, with Haferman winning 7-5, 6-2 at third singles and Riggs and Midura winning 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 at second doubles, and lost to Jonathan Alder 3-2 on Aug. 16.

In the inaugural Hayes Invitational on Aug. 12, the Pacers finished fourth (17 points) in a six-team field behind champion Olentangy (35).

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

BOYS GOLF

Aug. 4 -- Mike Nesselroad Invitational at Oakhaven

Aug. 7 -- Teays Valley at Foxfire

Aug. 8 -- OCC-Cardinal at Turnberry

Aug. 10 -- Westerville South Invitational at Royal American

Aug. 12 -- Steve Youmans Classic at Oakhaven

Aug. 14 -- OCC-Cardinal at Apple Valley

Aug. 19 -- Kent Miller Colonial Fall Classic at Hiawatha

Aug. 26 -- Northridge and Johnstown at Clover Valley

Aug. 30 -- OCC-Cardinal at Darby Creek

Sept. 8 -- Marion Harding Invitational at Marion Country Club

Sept. 13 -- OCC-Cardinal at Clover Valley

Sept. 16 -- Howlett Invitational at Worthington Hills

Sept. 18 -- Delaware County Cup at Bent Tree

Sept. 19 -- Buckeye Valley at Oakhaven

Sept. 25 -- OCC Shootout at Moundbuilders

GIRLS GOLF

Aug. 9 -- OCC-Cardinal at Westchester

Aug. 14 -- Thomas Worthington at Mentel Memorial

Aug. 15 -- OCC-Cardinal at Mentel Memorial

Aug. 21 -- Dublin Scioto and DeSales at Buck Ridge

Aug. 23 -- Thomas Worthington at Oakhaven

Aug. 28 -- Olentangy Liberty at Scioto Reserve

Aug. 29 -- OCC-Cardinal at Royal American

Aug. 31 -- DeSales at Oakhaven

Sept. 5 -- Olentangy at Oakhaven

Sept. 7 -- Buckeye Valley, Centerburg and Dublin Scioto at Oakhaven

Sept. 12 -- OCC-Cardinal at Cooks Creek

Sept. 13 -- Marysville at Blues Creek

Sept. 14 -- Dublin Scioto at Oakhaven

Sept. 18 -- Tri-match at Oakhaven

Sept. 25 -- Olentangy Liberty at Oakhaven

Sept. 27 -- DeSales at NorthStar

GIRLS TENNIS

Aug. 11 -- at Big Walnut

Aug. 12 -- Delaware Invitational

Aug. 16 -- vs. Jonathan Alder

*Aug. 17 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

Aug. 21 -- vs. Caledonia River Valley

*Aug. 22 -- at Dublin Scioto

*Aug. 24 -- at Thomas Worthington

*Aug. 29 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*Aug. 31 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

*Sept. 5 -- at Dublin Jerome

Sept. 6 -- vs. Hartley

Sept. 11 -- vs. Westerville North

Sept. 13 -- vs. Marysville

Sept. 14 -- at Westland

Sept. 18 -- at Worthington Christian

Sept. 25 -- vs. Reynoldsburg

Sept. 27 -- vs. Buckeye Valley

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Delaware Hayes cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 26 -- Baron Blast at Buckeye Valley

BOYS SOCCER

Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Big Walnut

Aug. 24 -- At Olentangy

GIRLS SOCCER

Aug. 22 -- At Watkins Memorial

Aug. 24 -- At Westerville Central

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

*Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Hilliard Darby

*Aug. 24 -- At Dublin Scioto

Aug. 26 -- Pirate Invitational at Cardington

*League contest