MUNCIE — After Mitchell Hahn reached the end zone, he saw his fallen teammate on the turf. Ryley Pease, Delta’s senior quarterback, was the lead blocker for Hahn on this 2-point conversion Oct. 16 against New Palestine, and he lay in agony after injuring his ankle.
The Eagles offense circled Pease, anxious to make sure their 6-foot-4 signal caller was OK. They slowly dispersed a few seconds later, until it was just Hahn huddled over Pease. The senior wide receiver lingered until Delta coach Grant Zgunda and a trainer reached them on the far side of the field.
“That’s my quarterback, I had to make sure he was all right,” Hahn explained.
Pease limped off, unable to finish the game. He was limited the following week in Delta’s postseason opener against Greenfield-Central but returned close to full strength in the second round against New Castle. In the Eagles’ 46-32 win over Pendleton Heights last Friday for their first sectional title since 2009, Pease threw four touchdowns – including three to his 6-foot-6 running mate, the last of which was the game-winner with less than three minutes left.
In an offense mostly dedicated to feeding the state’s leading rusher, Zach Mills, Pease and Hahn have made the most of their opportunities. Pease is in his first season starting at quarterback and though he has yet to complete 10 passes in any game this season, he has thrown for 1,449 yards and 16 touchdowns against four interceptions. Hahn has racked up 51 catches for 1,227 yards and 122 touchdowns, using a combination of posts, deep-out routes and corner routes that aren’t common at the high school level.
“It’s not easy to do what they’ve done,” Delta coach Grant Zgunda said.
Especially considering neither played much at all on offense last year. Pease played safety, where he also still plays now, but he was the backup to Cade Jones, throwing only one pass. Hahn had seven catches for 145 yards. So just how do they continue to light up opposing defenses week after week?
The genesis of their relationship was when the two teamed up while at Delta Middle School. Pease grew up on the south side of Muncie, going to Southside games with his dad until he moved into Delta’s district. Once there he met Hahn, already around 6 feet tall.
“We became friends after I started throwing touchdowns to him,” Pease said.
The southpaw Pease played quarterback as a freshman before primarily playing defense. Zgunda lauded the way Pease jumped right into offseason workouts once his basketball season ended last year, eager to finally get his chance under center.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a guy work as hard as him,” said Zgunda, who started at Delta in 1998.
Hahn came on strong at the end of last season after rotating in the slot, but opportunities weren’t always there with record-setting back Joe Spegal the focal point on offense.
“Mitch has worked extremely hard at the finer points of running routes and listening to every detail about how you beat certain coverages,” Zgunda said. “The talent has always been there, but he’s really honed in on all the finer things this year which has made him go over the top.”
With Hahn also spending time with his travel baseball team in the summer, the two had limited time to rebuild the chemistry they once had. But they clicked at a team camp at DePauw University and then carried that momentum into the season. Now Hahn is fourth in the state in receiving yards, 134 behind Lafayette Jefferson’s Daniel Ricksy.
All of that culminated in last Friday’s 23-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-21 in a tie game that allowed Delta (9-3) to continue its season Friday at No. 10 Roncalli (8-4) in hopes of its first regional win since 2001. Seated across from Pease and Hahn after a practice earlier this week, Zgunda broke down the play.
“You can throw a jump ball or a Hail Mary, or you can do what these guys did,” he said. “We have a 1-on-1 matchup, Ryley throws it on a line to not let the safety make a play.
“That was a beautiful play. It wasn’t luck, it was absolutely executed the way it should be.”
A season full of long touchdown passes from Pease to Hahn extended by possibly the most incredible yet.
“I haven’t seen (a replay) yet,” Hahn said. “I’m focusing on the next game, I’m not looking back.”
Zgunda nodded his head approvingly.
Pease smiled. “I’ll be honest, I watched it.”
Contact sports features writer Ryan O’Gara at (765) 213-5829. Follow him on Twitter @RyanOGaraTSP.
Friday’s ECI Football Regionals
Class 2A: Winchester (10-2) at No. 4 Woodlan (12-0), 7 p.m.
Class 4A: Delta (9-3) at No. 10 Roncalli, 7:30 p.m.