Connor Smith is a junior news journalism major. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A year ago, Delta high school's 2019 football season ended in a disappointing fashion.
Following a 77-0 victory over Greenfield-Central, the Eagles struggled in their final regular-season game, falling 49-13 to New Palestine. That was followed by an uninspiring sectional first-round loss to Mississinewa, losing 17-7 to the Indians and marking an early playoff exit despite an impressive 5-2 Hoosier Heritage Conference record.
This year, the Eagles (8-2) — whose current record is their best since 2010 — look rejuvenated, refreshed and ready for their next goal — to give the program its first sectional championship since 2016, facing Marion (8-3) Nov. 6.
Finishing the regular season 6-2, a 48-0 first-round shutout of Jay County and a 49-18 victory over Wayne in the sectional semifinals last Friday — which saw the Eagles score 28 unanswered second-half points — has helped the program get to this position. However, the team has experienced its share of adversity throughout an unconventional 2020 season.
The team’s originally scheduled season-opening game vs. Muncie Central back on Aug. 21 was canceled as a result of one player testing positive for COVID-19. While that was the only coronavirus-related situation for the team this season, the offense saw inconsistencies early. A combined 14 points in games against Yorktown (Sept. 11) and Mt. Vernon (Sept. 18) marked the lowest back-to-back total in head coach Chris Overholt’s tenure.
The offense has consistently found ground since then — scoring 20 or more points in its last six games. Senior quarterback and Ball State recruit Brady Hunt has recorded 1,028 passing yards this season, good for a 97% quarterback rating — an improvement from 81.4% in 2019.
These numbers alone could give Hunt an edge when it comes to Ball State Football’s starting quarterback battle following the departure of redshirt senior Drew Plitt.
Hunt’s weapons on offense make for a senior-laden group, including running back Evan Conley and receivers Trevor Edgerton, Logan Manor and Carson Neu — the son of Ball State Football head coach Mike Neu. Edgerton was particularly solid in Friday’s win over Wayne, recording two touchdowns and 65 receiving yards.
The Eagles look just as poised defensively. Holding the Generals scoreless in the second half of Friday’s win, the team has recorded 709 total tackles in 2020, with 105 coming from senior Logan Drown.
With such an experienced, senior-heavy group, a sectional championship should not only be the goal for this year’s Eagles squad but the expectation. Delta alumnus and head coach Overholt has established himself as one of the HHC’s premier head coaches, posting a 35-19 record throughout his five years at the helm thus far.
Overholt will look for his second sectional title Friday, having previously defeated Mount Vernon 12-6 in the 2016 Class 4A Section 20 championship. As this season’s roster features an entirely different cast and given the seniors’ endings these past three seasons — first-round exits in 2017 and 2019 in addition to a semifinal loss in 2018 — plenty of motivation remains four years later.
That said, Marion will not be a cakewalk for the Eagles. The Giants are riding a five-game win streak heading into Friday’s game, and the team has been stout defensively as of late — allowing 14 or fewer points in four of their last five games.
While there is plenty on the line for both teams right now, Hunt and the Eagles have the motivation they need heading into Friday’s game as the only Delaware County-based team remaining in the state.
In high school, senior year often holds a special meaning to students, and a sectional championship would mean a great deal toward Delta’s veterans. As Overholt told the Daily News Oct. 30, “no one wants to see” the Eagles’ season end just yet, especially given the adversity the team faced earlier this season.