The Delaware Hayes High School football team will be looking to extend its winning streak against Buckeye Valley when the teams meet in the season opener Friday, Aug. 24, at Ohio Wesleyan.
The Pacers have won 14 of the last 16 meetings, including the past six. The Barons' last win in the series came in 2011, 38-32 in double overtime.
"This is always an emotional rivalry and I'm one of maybe a few guys that have been on both sides of it," said first-year Pacers coach Scott Wetzel, who coached Buckeye Valley from 1992-96. "It's a great first game. The atmosphere is always great and the stands will be packed. There's a lot of buildup and hoopla, but we've told our guys that it's our job to play the game and not get caught up in all of that stuff."
The series has been tightly contested as of late, as Delaware won 21-17 last year, 20-13 in 2016 and 10-5 in 2015.
"We've been so close (to winning) the last three times," fifth-year Buckeye Valley coach Matt Stephens said. "It's always a good game, but we want to get over that hump this time. Our first goal every season is to beat Hayes."
Delaware finished 3-7 last season under Mike Golden, who stepped down after four seasons with the Pacers. Wetzel went 5-15 the past two seasons at Westerville North but posted a 100-27 record in 11 seasons at Big Walnut from 1998-2008 after going 31-19 in five seasons at Buckeye Valley.
Delaware hasn't posted a winning season since going 6-4 in 2009, which came on the heels of a 7-4 mark in 2008 when the Pacers made their lone postseason appearance.
Buckeye Valley went 7-3 last season and finished 11th in Division III, Region 11, three spots shy of a playoff berth.
The Barons are expected to be led on offense by senior quarterback Grant Owens, who was named second-team all-district a year ago after completing 126 of 203 passes for 1,624 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"We saw Buckeye Valley scrimmage St. Charles and their size and speed impressed us," Wetzel said. "We knew the quarterback was very good, but they had some receivers that were tall and could get up and get the ball. They looked sharp overall and coach Stephens always seems to do well with that program."
The leading receivers for the Barons are expected to be Matt Pentacost (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), Jake Radcliff (6-4, 200) and Beau Ewing (5-10, 185). Buckeye Valley's 4-3 defense is expected to be led by linemen Rance Wycoff and Wyatt McGraw and linebackers Lathan McGraw and Will Weinberg.
For Delaware, sophomore Blake Eiland is back at quarterback to run the multiple-formation scheme. Also back on offense are receiver Sam Lagando and linemen Jordan Wolfel and Max Bruney. Jahi Broussard-Nash saw significant action last season and will start at tailback, with Hayden McManus at fullback.
Mason Davis and Chris Johnson are returning starters at outside linebacker in Delaware's stack-three defense. Inside linebackers are Sebastian Meehan, McManus and Jacob Hunsaker.
"I like what we did in our scrimmage against Mount Vernon (Aug. 10), but we still have plenty to work on," Wetzel said. "We need to be willing to get better. We can't stay stagnant. We also have to be more physical. When you go from two-a-days to one practice a day, you lose half the time you need to work on things. We need to be focused and ready to go when we take the field every day."
Sulek leading boys golf team
Led by freshman Mark Sulek, the boys golf team is enjoying a strong turnaround season.
After finishing seventh at 0-24 in the four-round OCC-Cardinal Division tournament last season, the Pacers reached the midpoint of league action at 9-5 after shooting a 330 in the second round Aug. 13 at Turnberry to place fourth behind Dublin Jerome (296), Hilliard Bradley (311) and first-year Olentangy Berlin (319) and ahead of Worthington Kilbourne (346), Thomas Worthington (350), Dublin Scioto (360) and Hilliard Darby (362).
In the opening round Aug. 7 at Apple Valley, Delaware finished third (319) behind Jerome (298) and Berlin (317) and ahead of Bradley (323), Darby (344), Thomas (348), Kilbourne (349) and Scioto (369).
Sulek posted team lows of 78 and 79 in the first two rounds, respectively, and has the seventh-best average (78.5) entering the third round Aug. 29 at Darby Creek. Juniors Jake Ross (81.5) and Luke Garazek (82) have the next two-best averages for the Pacers, followed by sophomore Ben Madden (85).
"Our depth is getting better," second-year coach Andy Graham said. "This is the deepest our team has been in a while. We should have nine guys competing for matches this year. We've struggled the past couple of seasons in the OCC. We would like to score sub-320 as a team as much as possible."
Garazek, a two-year letterwinner, and Madden occupied the top two spots in the Pacers' lineup last season. Ross and junior Sam Bonofiglio return after sitting out as sophomores.
Also expected to contribute are seniors Shaun Bendele and Jackson Weller and freshmen Colin Bibler and Brady Garazek.
"We've got six freshmen in the program and three will contribute this season," Graham said. "We will definitely be an improved team. Luke was our leader in the offseason, playing in tournaments and organizing opportunities for his teammates to compete with (and against) one another."
Girls golfers out to good start in OCC
The girls golf team returned three players from its lineup last season and added an impressive newcomer in freshman Hayley Dye.
The Pacers, who finished 19-5 in the OCC-Cardinal last year to place second behind Jerome (24-0), appear to be on a similar path this season midway through the four-round tournament.
Delaware is second in the league (12-2) behind Jerome (14-0) entering the third round Aug. 29 at Cooks Creek.
Dye was medalist (73) in the first round Aug. 8 at Westchester, where the Pacers shot a 362 to finish behind Jerome (338) and ahead of Bradley (388), Scioto (426), Kilbourne (459) and Darby (476). Berlin and Thomas did not have team scores in the first two rounds.
Also competing for Delaware were senior Sophie Zehner (95), junior Alyssa Stultz (105) and sophomores Kenzie Collett (93) and Faith Eden (101). Zehner, Stultz and Collett were in the lineup last season.
Completing the roster is freshman Isabel Crissinger.
"Sophie Zehner has experience, plays well and is traditionally very consistent," said second-year coach Rob Stultz, Alyssa's father. "She is our captain and is excited about this season.
"Hayley is a strong freshman with a ton of experience in competitive play. She is a great scorer and very smart about course play."
In the second round Aug. 15 at Royal American, Delaware placed second (376) behind Jerome (339) and ahead of Bradley (407), Scioto (433), Darby (447) and Kilbourne (487).
"Our team depth is very strong," coach Stultz said. "I would like to see us post a strong finish in the OCC-Cardinal, as well as some invitationals and sectional."
Girls tennis team has four returnees
The girls tennis team returned four players from its starting lineup last season when the Pacers finished 5-12 overall and 1-5 in the OCC-Cardinal.
The returnees are seniors Grace Brinkmoeller, Renae Haferman and Sarah Midura and sophomore Grace Martin.
Midura and 2018 graduate Serena Ishwar reached a Division I district-qualifying match in doubles last season before losing in the sectional at Pickerington Central. The other returnees played singles at sectional.
"Grace (Brinkmoeller) played mostly at first or second singles last year and finished the season with some of her best tennis," third-year coach Dede Hibinger said. "We look for her to carry that over this season.
"Renae has been our steadiest singles performer the last couple of years and should continue to add to her winning ways. Sarah and Grace (Martin) both have improved their games."
Completing the roster are senior Kailah Breece, juniors Abbey Eyerman and Sydney Wolf, sophomores Alana Kay, Meredith Keller and Lilly Tope and freshman Evelyn Mignanou.
"Evelyn brings a strong tennis game and adds a young player that has been playing for many years," Hibinger said. "We are a deeper team this year and should be quite competitive. We're in a tough OCC division and we have a robust schedule, too."
The Pacers opened Aug. 11 by finishing second in their home invitational, as Brink-moeller (first flight), Haferman (second flight) and Martin (third flight) all went 2-1 in singles. The doubles teams of Midura and Mignanou (first flight) and Breece and Wolf (second flight) also went 2-1 as the Pacers totaled 22 points to finish second behind Olentangy (35) and ahead of Marysville (20), Westerville North (14), Buckeye Valley (11) and Kilbourne (8).
Delaware beat Caledonia River Valley 3-2 on Aug. 13, as Haferman won at first singles and both doubles teams won. The Pacers lost to Thomas 4-1 on Aug. 15 in a first-round match in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament.