When you play with a running clock for pretty much an entire half in a first-round playoff game — any playoff game, really — and come out on top, you did more than a few things right.
Still, Olentangy Liberty football coach Steve Hale, who saw his Patriots do just that en route to a dominant 35-0 Division I, Region 2 opening-round win over visiting Dublin Jerome, knows his team will have its work cut out for it in Friday’s second-round showdown against Gahanna Lincoln.
“Gahanna is a very talented team,” he said of the Lions, who advanced by outlasting Olentangy Orange 38-37 in overtime. “They have players who will play at the next level. Their offense is incredibly explosive, their guys make a lot of big plays and I believe they have a threat at every skill position.”
The Patriots, though, are riding high after putting together their most complete game of the season in the win over the Celtics.
“We played well on both sides of the ball Friday night,” he said. “The defense did a great job of shutting down what they do. Our guys are playing with solid confidence right now … they are a very mature group.
“We will need to take another step forward to stop Gahanna, though. Our guys will need to be very disciplined and use great eye control. We will need to be very good at making tackles in space.”
Liberty’s defense gave up just 133 yards during last week’s shutout, 75 on the ground and 58 through the air. The Patriots forced three turnovers and limited Jerome to just seven first downs all game long.
The Lions, though, are another animal. They piled up 362 yards of total offense to go with their 38 points against the Pioneers. Most of those yards, 310 to be exact, came through the air as quarterback Mike Lowery completed 21 of his 33 passes.
He had two touchdowns, one to David Miller (eight receptions for 103 yards) and the other to Jerome Buckner (four receptions for 86 yards).
Justus Harris also had a big game, hauling in four grabs for 80 yards while rushing for another 42 and a touchdown.
The Patriot offense, meanwhile, was pretty potent as well. It sliced right through the Celtic defense … something it will look to continue against a Lions unit that gave up more than 400 yards of total offense last week.
Liberty quarterback Mitchell Okuley completed 12 of his 15 passes for 163 yards and four touchdowns, all four coming in the first half. Matt Webb ran for 93 yards on 15 attempts while Johnny Wiseman had two grabs, both resulting in touchdowns, to go with a game-high 102 yards receiving.
Hale said Gahanna creates problems with its athleticism, but his team will look to do more of the same when it has the ball this time around.
“Their defense is big and athletic,” he said. “They run to the ball well, but we will attack their defense the same way we have attacked the odd fronts all year … we’ll do our best to establish our running game and we’ll use our tempo to keep them out of rhythm. The passing game will consist of short, crisp passes.”
As always, Hale said his team will need to limit turnovers and penalties to be successful. The Patriots did have a pair of fumbles last week, but didn’t commit a single penalty.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Westerville North High School.