Delaware Hayes at Big Walnut: Pacers, Golden Eagles set to square off

STEPHEN BORGNA
sborgna@thisweeknews.com
Senior running back Logan Eubanks is expected to be among the top performers for the Delaware Hayes football team, which will open at Big Walnut on Friday, Aug. 28, in an OCC-Capital Division game.

Under normal circumstances, Delaware Hayes football coach Scott Wetzel and his team would watch game tape ahead of their Week 1 matchup Friday, Aug. 28, against Big Walnut.

But this year -- at least as of the middle of last week -- there was none to view. Neither Delaware nor Big Walnut had scrimmaged anyone up to that point because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Wetzel said this could present the Pacers and host Golden Eagles with a difficult situation: Both could head into the game with little to no advanced scouting information on their opponent.

With contact sports approved by the state Aug. 18, Delaware was scheduled to scrimmage Caledonia River Valley and Big Walnut was scheduled to scrimmage Olentangy Berlin, both on Aug. 21.

"I don't know what (Big Walnut) runs offensively or defensively because they haven't scrimmaged either," Wetzel said before the Pacers' scrimmage was scheduled. "We're not going to trade any film unless we have a scrimmage. So we could go into that game pretty blind.

"I've never done that before. We've at least had something on somebody."

The Pacers are coming off a finish of 3-7 overall and 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, while the Golden Eagles were 4-6 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Capital last year.

Thanks to OCC realignment, the teams are now rivals in the OCC-Capital. This will be their first meeting since 2015, when Big Walnut won 27-21 in overtime.

While Wetzel is in his third season with the Pacers, the Golden Eagles are led by first-year coach Rob Page, a former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Cincinnati Turpin who replaced Joe Weaver.

Weaver resigned after going 55-60 in 11 seasons.

The matchup also is a reunion of sorts for Wetzel, who coached the Golden Eagles from 1998-2008. He left with a 100-27 overall record, including six OCC titles and a Division III state championship in 2007.

"We had a really good run of teams through there. We had some really good athletes come through there," Wetzel said."It's going to be weird going back there."

Delaware will be led on offense by four-year starter Blake Eiland, a dual-threat quarterback who rushed for 863 yards and six scores last season. He also completed 77 of 158 passes for 799 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Eiland projects to cede some plays to junior quarterback Austin Dowell, who coaches hope to plug in with certain packages.

Senior running back Logan Eubanks, who rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries last season, will be joined in the backfield by senior Ty Gillman.

Alex Blevins and Braeden McGrady, both seniors, project to be key receiving options, with senior Dom Boeriu at tight end.

The Pacers' defensive leaders include defensive end Matt McGeath, linebacker Kaleb Shaw and defensive back Orion Ward. McGeath also starts at left guard.

"We're a lot of good athletes," McGeath said. "I feel like we have a lot of speed to play with."

Big Walnut's offense will be led by third-year starting quarterback Jagger Barnett, a first-team all-league and second-team all-district selection in 2019. He completed 97 of 195 passes for 1,168 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions while running for 311 yards and four scores on 104 carries.

Senior Caden Williams, who was honorable mention all-league on defense, will line up behind Barnett at running back.

Linebacker A.J. Leasure, a second-team all-league selection, should lead the defense. He also plays tight end.

"I know we haven't been really respected among central Ohio teams, and I feel like we will be," Leasure said. "I'm very confident in our schedule, and I feel like going in we can beat anyone on our schedule."

If there's no tape to review, Wetzel will prepare the Pacers for as many formations as possible.

"We just have to go in and be prepared for them to have two backs, no backs, spread the field, two tight ends, just the base of what we do, and probably just do some coaching on the run," Wetzel said. "I think the teams that can adjust the fastest, the teams that can overcome things will maybe be the better teams this year."

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve

Week 1

DELAWARE HAYES at BIG WALNUT

*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28

*Last meeting: 2015, Big Walnut 27-21 (OT)

*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), Braeden McGrady (WR), Kaleb Shaw (LB) and Orion Ward (DB)

*Top Golden Eagles: Zach Barnecut (WR/DB), Jagger Barnett (QB), Brady Hershberger (WR/DB), A.J. Leasure (TE/LB), Mark Ruffing (OL/DL), Mahlon Spangler (OL/DL), Gage Sutton (TE/DL), Cole Wecker (OL/DL) and Caden Williams (RB/DE)