Westerville North: Warriors aiming for 2-0 start
The Westerville North football team will go for its second 2-0 start in three seasons and third in the past five against a familiar face, at least to some in the program and around the school.
Coming off a 17-0 home win over Franklin Heights on Aug. 28, the Warriors will continue OCC-Capital Division play Friday, Sept. 4, with a trip to Delaware.
The Pacers are coached by Scott Wetzel, who was at North in 2016 and 2017.
"(Aug. 28) was our first time doing anything against another team since we didn't have a scrimmage so we went in not knowing exactly what we'd see. Usually the first time you play is a little sloppy, but I was very pleased," North coach Bryan Johnson said. "We played very well on defense and with two of those linebackers (Sylvester Bockarie and Brennan Albertini) getting 17 and 13 carries (respectively, at running back), we were able to throw some things at Franklin Heights and wear them down a little bit."
Bockarie ran for 140 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
The Warriors got breathing room in the third quarter on Wyatt Buxton's 62-yard touchdown pass to Coby Darlington and Hunter Weigand added a 24-yard field goal in the fourth as North not only snapped a 28-game losing streak in league play dating to the 2014 season, but won its league opener for the first time since 2006.
"Last year, our only win was against Franklin Heights. We came back home and rang the victory bell," Johnson said. "To win this game at home means a lot to our guys. They are seeing what they're doing is paying off."
Delaware opened Aug. 28 with a 14-6 loss at Big Walnut, which Wetzel coached to the Division III state championship in 2007.
Wetzel went 5-15 at North but has a career record of 145-73 in 20 seasons.
"It's a little bit of a (reunion), but it's been a couple years, so I think most of the kids I coached there are gone. I don't consider it to be a big deal," Wetzel said. "I do know that Westerville North has very tough kids. They're very physical, so you better be ready to play them when you play them.
"The one thing that I remember when I was there that I remember more than anything else, the kids didn't back down from anybody. They played hard. Sometimes we were outmatched playing the Olentangys, the Upper Arlingtons and stuff, but they never backed down."
The Pacers went 6-4 in Wetzel's first season and 3-7 last year but largely were shut down against Big Walnut.
Jared McKeen kicked two 34-yard field goals, one on the first drive of the game and the other in the final minute of the first half, for Delaware's only points.
Big Walnut got touchdown runs of 3 and 1 yards from Caden Williams, the shorter of which sealed the win with 4:06 left.
"They are big up front and they want to establish the run," Johnson said of the Pacers. "They'll go under center quite a bit and use their tight end and fullback. They want to ground and pound."
WESTERVILLE NORTH at DELAWARE HAYES
*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4
*North (1-0 overall, 1-0 in OCC-Capital) to date: Defeated Franklin Heights 17-0
*Delaware (0-1 overall, 0-1 in OCC-Capital) to date: Lost to Big Walnut 14-6
*Top Warriors: Brennan Albertini (RB/LB), Sylvester Bockarie (RB/LB), Wyatt Buxton (QB), Coby Darlington (WR/DB), Mitchell Gillam (OL/DL), Mohammed Nasser (OL/DL), Ty O'Hearn (WR/DB/LS), Reuben Simiyu (OL/DL) and Hunter Weigand (WR/DB/K)
*Top Pacers: Alex Blevins (WR), Austin Dowell (QB), Blake Eiland (QB), Logan Eubanks (RB), Logan Gibson (OL), Ty Gillman (RB), Gavin Kenney (OL), Matt McGeath (OL/DL) and Braeden McGrady (WR)