Delaware Hayes: Pacers made strides late in season
In a challenging year in which the Delaware Hayes football team finished 2-8 overall, coach Scott Wetzel said the Pacers generated some momentum toward the end of the season that they could carry into 2021.
Facing league competition the first six weeks of the season, the Pacers went 0-6 to finish eighth in the OCC-Capital Division behind champion Westerville South (5-0).
But the Pacers continued playing for four more weeks and went 2-2, winning 17-7 at Newark on Oct. 9 and 21-14 at Buckeye Valley on Oct. 30 in their season finale.
“We went 2-2 the last four games, and we had opportunities to win the two that we lost,” Wetzel said. “Our league schedule was really good; it was a tough league. I think some of our younger kids played well.”
Those two losses were 20-14 against visiting Mount Vernon on Oct. 16 and 17-7 at Licking Heights on Oct. 24.
“It was something to build on,” Wetzel said. “I think when you start out 0-6 you’re questioning some things. To be able to win two out of the last four obviously gives us some momentum going into the offseason. We have some kids that’ll work hard in the offseason and we can build on that for next year.”
Junior quarterback Austin Dowell, a first-year starter, said the team incorporated some lessons he thinks will benefit the Pacers next season.
“I think the season was a learning experience for all of us,” Dowell said. “Many of us have never played varsity before, so I think we were trying to get used to the speed of the game and each other.
“As a team the experiences we had this year will make us better prepared for next season. Throughout the season we learned we could be a great team as long as we come together and fight for the same goal.”
Wetzel said he was impressed with the growth of Dowell at quarterback as the season progressed, making him one of the Pacers' most important expected returnees.
“He stepped into the (starting quarterback) role the first week of the season and wasn’t expecting to be there,” Wetzel said. “I thought he did a great job and he really grew as the season went on. Any time you return your quarterback is a plus for your team and I think he’ll be ready and he’ll be a great leader for us next year at that spot.”
Other key players expected to return are juniors Lucas McKeen (OL/DL), Toby Bohrer (LB) and Tony Napier (OL/DL), sophomores Isaac Wheeler (OL/DL), Andon Wheeler (RB/LB) and Xavier Weaver (DB).
The Pacers will lose 23 players to graduation.
Senior Matt McGeath (OL/DL) was named first-team all-league. Seniors Ty Gillman (RB/DB) and Orion Ward (DB) were second-team all-league, Weaver was special mention and senior Marshall Klingel (OL/DL) was honorable mention.
•Record: 2-8 overall
•OCC-Capital standings: Westerville South (5-0), Dublin Scioto and Westerville North (both 5-1), Worthington Kilbourne and Big Walnut (both 3-3), Canal Winchester (2-4), Franklin Heights (0-5), Delaware (0-6)
•Seniors lost: Ruben Beltran, Alex Blevins, Dom Boeriu, Ben Chesnes, Frank Cialiqui, Logan Eubanks, Logan Gibson, Ty Gillman, Sean Harrison, Logan Hummel, Gavin Kenney, Marshall Klingel, Joshua Koehler, Matt McGeath, Braeden McGrady, Jared McKeen, Grayson Miller, Devon Pounds, Braeden Rhodes, Armond Rose-Miles, Kaleb Shaw, Orion Ward and Nick Wildman
•Key returnees: Toby Bohrer, Austin Dowell, Lucas McKeen, Tony Napier, Xavier Weaver, Andon Wheeler and Isaac Wheeler