Delaware Hayes wasn’t at all happy about the way it played on the opening night of the season.
Last night, though … last night’s showing against visiting Olentangy was a different story.
The Pacers wore their will to win on their sleeves, erupting with emotion when senior quarterback Josh Bender found fellow senior Matt Bingaya in the end zone with 31 seconds to go — a fade from 18 yards out that Bingaya snagged over a pair of Brave defenders for his third touchdown of the game — giving Hayes a thrilling 18-14 come-from-behind win in front of a rowdy crowd in Delaware.
First-year Hayes coach Zebb Schroeder said the win was just what his team needed … and expected.
“Coming in, we had three goals,” he said, pointing out the Week 1 loss to rival Buckeye Valley was a huge motivator. “First we wanted to execute better, because we didn’t do too well the first week. Second, we wanted to represent this town well, because it deserves a great effort from its football team. And third, we challenged the seniors to leave a footprint … I can’t say enough good things about this senior class.”
He couldn’t say enough good things about Bingaya, either.
“To call his performance tremendous would be an understatement,” the coach said. “He is such a great kid, and it’s great to watch him go out and compete … he loves to compete.”
Olentangy coach Ed Terwilliger liked the way his team competed, too, especially early in the game, but knows his Braves are going to have to make adjustments, much like the Pacers did, to be successful in the upcoming weeks.
“We need to go back to the drawing board,” he said of his group, which ran the ball well, but struggled with the pass. “People move eight, nine and 10 guys into the box and we just can’t run every time. We need to throw the ball, too.
“You have to give them (the Pacers) a lot of credit,” Terwilliger added. “They came back after a tough loss and now we’ll get to see what we’re made of.”
The game was tight throughout, with Olentangy getting the better of things early on.
After the Pacers turned the ball over on downs following a long possession to open the action, the Braves took over on their own 38-yard line and scored just three plays later, when senior William Brett broke through the first wave of defenders, cut toward to the outside and scooted down the sideline of a 53-yard TD with 4:09 to go in the first quarter. Joshua Baumbach added the extra point to give his team a 7-0 lead.
Hayes had an answer, though, as it did all night. The teams traded possessions after the score, with Hayes catching a break in the middle of the second stanza, taking over at the Olentangy 34-yard line after sacking quarterback Jonathan Seymour and recovering his fumble with six minutes to play until halftime.
The Pacers used their possession game — short passes, screens, sweeps, dives and draws — to move into the red zone and, on a fourth-and-two from the seven, Alex Rafeld, who split time with Bender behind center, completed a quick out to Jante Wright, who wiggled his way to the five-yard line to set up a first-and-goal situation.
Two plays later, Rafeld found Bingaya in the end zone from four yards out with 1:44 to go in the half. Hayes then went for two, but missed the conversion — as it did after all three of its touchdowns on the night — to trail 7-6 at the intermission.
The second half started a lot like the first for the Braves, who scored on their initial possession when, on a third-and-nine play, Seymour ran a bootleg to the right side and found nothing but green grass in front of him en route to a 48-yard jaunt into the end zone. The extra point was again good, but it was the last point the Braves would score.
Bingaya made his second TD grab — a 25 yard catch from the arm of Rafeld — with 9:35 to go in the game. Then, After stopping the Braves on four straight runs from inside the Pacer 37, Hayes got the ball back with no timeouts and just 2:45 remaining.
Bender started the final drive with a big pass play to Zack Parsons, who ran all the way to the Olentangy 37 before being brought down, setting up the game-winning bomb to Bingaya.
Bingaya finished with 11 catches for 128 yards to go with his three TDs. Other Hayes standouts included Bender, who completed 10 of his 17 passes for 129 yards while rushing 16 times for 66; Rafeld, who competed six of his 10 passes for 109 yards and two TDs; and the duo of Parsons and Wright, who combined for nine grabs and 80 yards.
The Braves didn’t get a single completion from Seymour, but backs William Brett and Derrick Rodgers were a force. Brett had 12 carries and 103 yards while Rodgers finished with 17 carries for 102 yards.