Patriots get Celtics to open postseason


By Ben Stroup - bstroup@aimmediamidwest.com



Liberty’s Johnny Wiseman looks for running room during a game earlier this season. The Patriots open the Division I playoffs tonight against visiting Dublin Jerome.


Ben Stroup | Gazette

The Olentangy Liberty football team has been on a bit of a roll of late.

The Patriots’ only two losses came in non-league action … to a pair of playoff teams. Since the team’s 42-0 loss to Pickerington North in Week 5, though, it has done nothing but win.

It wasn’t always easy — Liberty had to battle back from early deficits in its two biggest OCC wins of the season (victories over rivals Olentangy and Olentangy Orange in back-to-back weeks) — but it escaped unscathed en route to an OCC-Buckeye Division championship.

Now, the Patriots turn their attention to the postseason. Second-seeded Liberty (8-2) will take on seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome (7-3) tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Powell.

“Jerome is a very solid team,” Liberty coach Steve Hale said. “They have several very good athletes and are very aggressive on defense.

“We’ll need to be disciplined on offense. They’ll try to disrupt everything we like to do with blitzes and, if we don’t have good eye control, we will have a hard time getting first downs.”

First downs, though, haven’t exactly been few and far between here in the second half of the season. Since the shutout loss to the Panthers, the Patriots have scored no fewer than 25 points in any of their league games.

Quarterback Mitchell Okuley has been solid all season, completing 97 of his 165 passes for 1,443 yards and 22 touchdowns.

His top target has been Ben Roderick, a sought after Division I college basketball recruit, who’s amassed 406 yards on 34 receptions to go with a team-best 12 touchdowns. Mitchell Kershner has also been solid, finishing the regular season with 21 grabs for 311 yards and a touchdown.

The ground game, meanwhile, has been boosted by Matt Webb, who has 157 carries for 667 yards and nine touchdowns. Okuley has done a good job of picking up yards when things break down, too, collecting 324 on 60 carries to go with a touchdown.

On the other side of the ball, Liberty will have to slow down Hayden Schell and company. Schell threw for 230 yards and accounted for two touchdowns, one though the air and another on the ground, in the Celtics’ 24-7 win over Worthington Kilbourne in the regular season finale.

Guys like linebackers Ed Warinner (35 solo tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack), John Paolo (84 tackles, five tackles for loss and a sack), Nick Paolo (70 tackles, seven tackles for loss and one sack) and Skylar Wahlund (78 tackles, four tackles for loss and four sacks) will look to control things up front. Defensive backs Troy Oehler (47 tackles, three tackles for loss and three interceptions), Grant Wilson (34 tackles and two interceptions) and Johnny Wiseman (34 tackles and two picks) will have their hands full as well.

“Their offense is very athletic,” Hale said. “Their quarterback is very good. He gets the ball to their athletes in space and we’ll need to keep everything in front of us and make secure tackles.

“Avoiding penalties and turnovers will also be crucial for both teams.”

Liberty’s Johnny Wiseman looks for running room during a game earlier this season. The Patriots open the Division I playoffs tonight against visiting Dublin Jerome.
http://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2017/11/web1_wiseman.jpgLiberty’s Johnny Wiseman looks for running room during a game earlier this season. The Patriots open the Division I playoffs tonight against visiting Dublin Jerome. Ben Stroup | Gazette

By Ben Stroup

bstroup@aimmediamidwest.com