Two points separated the Olentangy Orange football team from where it is to where it wanted to be.
Where it is is packing up the locker room to get ready for the offseason after a 38-37 heartbreaking overtime loss to Gahanna Lincoln in the Division I, Region 2 quarterfinals.
Jack Applegate scored from four yards out in overtime, but Grant Simon missed the extra point wide right to give the sixth-seeded Lions a walk-off victory Friday night in Lewis Center.
“There were a lot of plays that we could have made,” Orange coach Zebb Schroeder said. “There were penalties, coaching decisions – we all had a part in this. As always, to narrow it down to one play, that’s unfair.”
The third-seeded Pioneers (9-2), hosting their second playoff game in school history, also dropped a one-point decision to rival Olentangy Liberty two weeks ago – the difference between an undefeated regular season and an OCC-Buckeye championship.
“I’m sure as coaches, we will get sick to our stomachs this off-season going would-a, could-a, should-a on some things. I’m sure our players will do that too,” Schroeder said.
“It just goes to show you – when you get to that (point) where you’re challenging to be an elite football team – there’s just so many little things that separate you from being (good to being great).”
Mike Lowery threw for 310 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air and two more on the ground to lead Gahanna.
His passing touchdowns were to his two favorite receivers for the game, including a 25-yarder to Jerome Buckner for the go-ahead score in overtime. Buckner had 86 yards on four catches.
David Miller had 103 yards on eight catches to lead the Lions (7-4).
“We knew we were going to have to score points because of how dynamic their skill players are,” Schroeder said. “They’re some of the best kids in the area … some of the best kids we’ve seen all year.”
Orange was an offensive juggernaut for most of the game. The Pioneers racked up 403 yards of total offense, including 274 on the ground.
Jack Applegate led the way with 152 yards on 32 carries and Luke Schmeling added 119 yards on 20 carries.
Applegate also had touchdowns in the second and third quarter and Schmeling had a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown to Jordan Shelton, who scored from 63 yards out in the second quarter that gave Orange its first lead at 21-20.
Orange led, coincidentally, on a missed extra point when Garrett Runyon got a piece of Kobie Stillwell’s kick to send it wide right after Lowery rushed for the second of his two second quarter touchdowns.
The Pioneers took an eight-point lead on Applegate’s 9-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
But, Gahanna tied it on a Justus Harris 19-yard touchdown run with 0:55 left in the frame and a Lowery-to-Miller connection for the two-point conversion.
Stillwell gave the Lions the lead with a 29-yard field goal with 7:55 to go before Simon tied it again with a 41-yard kick with 2:45 left.
“Simon’s been a huge part of our success,” Schroeder said. “We wouldn’t be here without him.”
Defensively, Orange was already without linebacker Bryce Houston coming into the game. Graham Starn, who led the team in rushing this season made the move to middle linebacker to replace Houston. But, he left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury.
“(Starn) wasn’t really on our depth chart three weeks ago,” Schroeder said. “We had to shuffle some things around and get organized. That makes it tough when you’re already thin at that position.”
Gahanna advances to the regional semifinals against Liberty Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at a location to be announced.
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