One of the biggest hurdles Scott Wetzel has encountered during his first two seasons as Delaware Hayes football coach has to do with building depth.
He was reminded of how much of that it takes during the OCC-Cardinal Division schedule this season.
"It's a tough chore for us to play the Hilliards and the Dublins and we've battled them, played hard and won some games against them," Wetzel said. "When we played Hilliard Darby, for example, they had (a player) who had to go out after the first play of the game (because of a jersey issue) so he came out, but they brought someone else in and this kid looks just like him. We don't have the luxury of doing that."
The Pacers lost to the Panthers 24-6 on Oct. 25 and were 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the league before playing their regular-season finale Nov. 1 at home against Hilliard Bradley.
Delaware was 12th in Division I, Region 2 entering Week 10. The Pacers' hopes of making the playoffs were mathematically alive, but they needed to beat the Jaguars and have several other scenarios play out.
Bradley, which also was 3-6 entering Week 10, is headed by former Pacers coach Mike LoParo and beat Delaware each of the past three seasons.
Having an average of about 20 players per class, overall numbers haven't been the biggest issue for the Pacers, although they will be losing 24 players from this year's squad to graduation.
Delaware figures to have a seasoned veteran at quarterback next season in junior Blake Eiland, who has been a starter since early in his freshman season when the Pacers went 3-7.
Delaware experienced more success last season, winning its first four games en route to a 6-4 finish, and started this season 2-1.
One thing Eiland hasn't seen change since the Pacers began league play in Week 4 has been their attitude.
"Even when we lose, you've got to move on to the next week and keep on fighting," Eiland said.
Against Darby, Eiland completed eight of 16 passes for 76 yards and rushed 17 times for 89 yards.
The Pacers faced the Panthers without senior running Jahi Broussard-Nash, who had rushed for 708 yards and scored 11 touchdowns through eight games but did not play because of injury. He was expected to return against Bradley.
Sophomore backup quarterback Austin Dowell also saw action against the Panthers, completing four of five passes for 32 yards.
Many of the team's other key skill position players, including wide receiver Colby Cooper and tight end Nabil Abdus-salaam, are seniors.
On defense, Eiland figures to be among the players the Pacers will build around after grabbing three interceptions through nine games.
Juniors such as Orion Ward in the secondary and Kaleb Shaw at linebacker also have emerged as key players.
"We have some young guys that have been playing for us and doing a nice job," Wetzel said. "We have a good mixture of juniors and seniors.
"I've spent a lot of time in the middle school and with our youth league trying to build relationships with each one so that when a kid moves from middle school to high school that it's an easy transition. Our freshman team had a pretty good year. Their record wasn't great, but they were competitive and played good football. Our middle school is just on the other side of the (railroad) tracks. Sometimes it feels like it's 100 miles away, but that shouldn't be the case."
Frisch closes season at regional meet
The cross country program's lone representative at the Division I regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North was senior Brian Frisch, who finished 78th of 125 runners in 17 minutes, 26.3 seconds as the top 20 advanced to state.
Frisch has competed for the boys soccer, wrestling and boys track and field programs at Delaware, but came out for cross country for the first time this fall.
His mother, Laura, is a former cross country competitor at the high school and college levels.
"I want to do well in wrestling and track and I knew I was good at running, so I decided to give it a shot and attempt to get one more letter on my varsity jacket," Frisch said. "I've run in (5Ks before), but nothing where I'd be training consistently for them. My brother (sophomore Blake Frisch) has run cross country, so it's just in our genetics. The running gene is on my mom's side of the family."
Brian Frisch placed eighth (16:27.9) in the district 1 meet Oct. 19 at Hilliard Darby to advance to regional, and Blake Frisch finished 49th (17:31.9) as the boys team finished 11th.
Brian Frisch, who finished 14th (16:48.8) in the OCC-Cardinal meet Oct. 12 at Hilliard Davidson, and Aidan Stojkov were the only key seniors.
Others eligible to return include juniors Padraig Mumper, Eric Stewart and Gary Weckerly, sophomores John Hinton and Juan Tello and freshman Luke Todt.
The girls team is set to return all of its postseason competitors.
Sophomore Miranda Gemberling led the Pacers with a 37th-place finish (21:28.7) at the league meet and placed 45th (21:25.5) in the district 1 meet.
Other key runners for the Pacers included juniors Brynn McGrail and Lauren English, sophomore Kailyn Smith and freshmen Beth Atanosian, Danica Davelli, Rowan Hering and Julia Young.
"Having three (boys) in the (17-minute range) was a nice jump," coach Jim Bibler said. "The girls are coming along. All of the freshmen girls are really doing great this season. ... They're a very hard-working and competitive group. We're really happy with the effort and most are improving and dropping time."