Olentangy Liberty coach Steve Hale has a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to the success or failure of his teams.

“You go out and get in competitive situations and put your kids in a situation to be successful and see how they respond,” Hale said. “This group has responded well over the years. This season will bring its challenges – much like last year did. We’ll see how they respond and learn from their mistakes.”

Historically speaking, the Patriots have responded well to adversity.

Liberty went 1-9 in its first year and hasn’t had a losing season since. If you’re scoring at home – it’s seven OCC titles, 10 playoff appearances, 13 winning seasons and 14 non-losing campaigns while amassing a 114-55 record in 15 years – all on Hale’s ledger.

“We had two really good runs,” Hale said. “We’ve got great kids that work really hard. We’ve got a team that’s fun to be around and whatever happens, we’re going to enjoy our experience with them.”

The Patriots finished 11-3 last year, won a second straight OCC Buckeye title with a 5-0 record and made it to the state final four for the second straight year.

They lose Johnny Wiseman, who was second team All-Ohio and a key player on both offense and defense.

The Patriots lose running Matt Webb (1,004 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns) and linemen Chase Bower and Nick Rosi on offense, but, with a roster numbering 100, have a lot back in the literal sense.

“We have a pretty large senior class – 33,” Hale said. “We’ve never had anything close to that. We’ve normally averaged somewhere around 22. I don’t know that there’s anything different other than the senior kids … they just like each other and they’re friends.”

Senior Mitchell Okuley has been a starter since midway through his sophomore year. He’ll have fellow seniors Mitchell Kershner, Jake Sincek and Grant Wilson to throw to again at receiver.

Sophomore Aidan Kenley is expected to carry the load in the backfield behind seniors Brady Kuhn and Alex Azusensis on the line.

“They’re different than … Matt was so big and thick,” Hale said. “These guys are a little more scatback type. So, that’ll change some things that we do a little bit.”

Senior Ben Roderick is on the team, but Hale wasn’t sure if he’d ever get cleared to play after suffering a season-ending knee injury in basketball last year. Roderick led the team with 41 catches for 551 yards and 14 touchdowns last year.

“I don’t know if he’ll ever play a down for us this year,” Hale said. “But, he’s been here too long. I like having him around. It’s good for him and it’s good for the guys.”

The Patriots have more to replace on defense, especially at the linebacker position with Edward Warinner, Skylar Wahlund, John Paolo and Dominic Nappi as well as linemen Matt Keene and Chris Osborne and defensive back Troy Oehler all lost to graduation.

But, they were strong and deep at linebacker last year. Nick Paolo is the top returner of the group, but Matthew Rohl (senior) saw significant time, too.

Senior Jaime Hessing returns at defensive end and Wilson and Corbin Parrish (junior) are back in the secondary.

Liberty quarterback Mitchell Okuley (2) has been a starter since midway through his sophomore year, most recently leading the Patriots to back-to-back state semifinal appearances.
http://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2018/08/web1_okuley.jpgLiberty quarterback Mitchell Okuley (2) has been a starter since midway through his sophomore year, most recently leading the Patriots to back-to-back state semifinal appearances. Ben Stroup | Gazette

Mitchell Kershner sprints off the line of scrimmage during a practice earlier this summer at Olentangy Liberty.
http://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2018/08/web1_kershner.jpgMitchell Kershner sprints off the line of scrimmage during a practice earlier this summer at Olentangy Liberty. Ben Stroup | Gazette
Liberty led into season by huge senior class

By Michael Rich

For the Gazette


Aug. 24 — @ Pickerington North, 7 p.m.

Aug. 31 — Vs. Cleveland Glenville, 7 p.m.

Sep. 7 — Vs. Marysville, 7 p.m.

Sep. 14 — Vs. Hilliard Davidson, 7 p.m.

Sep. 21 — @ Groveport-Madison, 7 p.m.

Sep. 28— Vs. Westerville Central, 7 p.m.

Oct. 5 — @ Westerville South, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 — Vs. Olentangy, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 — Vs. Olentangy Orange, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26 — @ Westerville North, 7 p.m.

2017 RESULTS (11-3, 5-0 OCC Buckeye)

Aug. 25 — Vs. St. Joseph (Ontario) North, W, 49-14

Sep. 1 — Vs. Huber Heights Wayne, L, 17-0

Sep. 8 — @ Marysville, W, 32-21

Sep. 15 — @Hilliard Davidson, W, 17-10

Sep. 22 — Vs. Pickerington North, L, 42-0

Sep. 29 — @ Westerville Central, W, 31-28

Oct. 6 — Vs. Westerville South, W, 34-14

Oct. 13 — @ Olentangy, W, 28-17

Oct. 20 — @Olentangy Orange, W, 25-24

Oct. 27 — Vs. Westerville North, W, 35-8

Nov. 3 — Vs. Dublin Jerome, W, 35-0 (D-I regional quarterfinal)

Nov. 10 — Vs. Gahanna Lincoln, W, 17-14 (D-I regional semifinal)

Nov. 17 — Vs. Toledo Whitmer, W, 34-7 (D-I regional final)

Nov. 24 — Vs. Mentor, L, 27-21 (D-I state semifinal)


1 Donte Eldredge

1 Joey Wiseman

2 Mitchell Okuley

3 Ben Roderick

4 Kevin O’Mery

5 Stephen Dirksmeier

5 Nicholas Paolo

6 Shawn Castellanos

6 Dominick Magistrale

7 Adam Lane

7 Grant Wilson

8 Mitchell Kershner

8 Tyler Schapker

9 Grant Clausing

9 Matthew Rohl

10 Carson Carrier

10 Casey Kauf

11 Matt Milisavljevich

11 Samuel Zabonik

12 Michael Millard

13 Robert Flowers

14 Aidan Kenley

15 Mitchell Fields

16 Jackson Roberts

17 Corbin Parrish

18 Andrew Lane

19 Jack Barboza

20 Mikey Gordon

21 Taylor Bower

22 Dylan Stevens

23 Jake Sincek

24 Noah Uttam

25 Chase Miley

26 Tasker Brown

27 Tyson Chapman

28 Miller Ridpath

29 Ryan Ritter

30 Jared Severance

31 Andrew Barrett

32 Preston Oliver

33 Ben Cox

34 Jacob Sauer

35 Ryan Bird

36 Drew Thornton

37 Ian Newcomer

38 Braydan Sackett

39 Brian Yamokoski

40 Justin Callahan

41 Grant Butler

42 Kyle Wilson

43 Jamie Hessing

44 Kaden Tong

45 Reid Follmer

46 Carter Lane

47 Doug Lyle

48 Joey Dierker

49 Matthew Hale

50 Matthew Barrett

51 Max Turner

52 Brady Kuhn

53 Jacob Sulewski

54 Josh Miller

55 Benjamin Flees

56 Ryan Repasky

57 Matthew Wrather

58 Drake Carrier

59 Kyle Shumate

60 Sean Gemienhardt

61 Jack Forsman

62 Noah Hatcher

63 Luke Tate

64 Mitchell Fuller

65 Grady Clausing

66 Joshua Slingsby

67 Nicholas Brown

68 Tyler Rosselli

69 Tyus Thompson

70 Parker Flinn

71 Benjamin Wrather

72 Jadon Brownlee

73 Mitch Koski

74 Kyle Hehmeyer

75 Alexander Azusenis

76 Nick Hall

78 Tristan Lehmiller

80 Chase Cameron

81 Connor Humenay

82 Mark Ceddia

83 Jack Feeman

84 Jackson Maag

85 Jacob Yeray

86 Luke Humenay

87 Jacob Kessler

88 Camden Barcus

89 Landon Smith

90 Parker Haney

91 Keaton Butler

92 Jacob Bonacci

94 Josh Piela

99 Tyler Hauenstein

Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected].