LEWIS CENTER – Spencer Hawkins tossed a pair of touchdown passes on consecutive possessions before halftime and Jake Vanchieri added two fourth-quarter scores to help the Olentangy Orange football team win its first playoff game since 2009.
The Pioneers avenged their only loss of the season with a 36-17 victory over visiting Pickerington North in a Division I regional quarterfinal Friday night.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys that are committed to practicing and watching film,” Orange coach Zebb Schroeder said. “When we come out here – this is like the gravy because they just want to perform for their brothers. When you get those types of kids and (that) culture – that’s when special things can happen.”
Vanchieri ran for 187 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries to lead the third-seeded Pioneers.
“He runs his best in the fourth quarter,” Schroeder said. “He gets those body blows on (opposing) linebackers and then they shy away in the second half. That’s the type of running back he is … he’s so strong in the second half.”
Hawkins went 11 of 19 for 181 yards and two scores. He found Caden Konczak for a 45-yard touchdown on the next possession and – after a Cardan Mutai fumble recovery – found Sam Wyne for a 33-yard touchdown to push the lead to 23-7 at the break.
Jack Behre kicked three field goals to spot the third-seeded Pioneers (10-1) a 9-0 lead in the first half.
Jack Sawyer played at quarterback for the first time this season in a 38-17 North win at Orange on Sept. 13.
“I think we had a little bit more confidence this time around,” linebacker Zach Hill said. “We had a really good game plan this week.”
Sawyer came up injured on a 10-yard run that set up the first Panther touchdown – a 1-yard run by Dawaun Green on the next play to cut North’s deficit to 9-7 with 5:20 left in the half. He never returned.
Dom Myers, who took over for Sawyer for the sixth-seeded Panthers (6-5), threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Chris Scott to cut the deficit to 23-14 in the third quarter.
Scott kept the next Panther drive alive by completing a 27-yard pass to Josiah Williams on a fake punt. Tanner Pope turned it into points with a 19-yard field goal to cut Orange’s lead to six with 1:39 left in the third.
But Myers’ magic ran out as Reese Dunham and Jadon Ampadu each picked off the North quarterback on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter.
Myers went 13 of 21 for 129 yards, a touchdown and 2 interceptions and added 49 yards on 12 carries. Scott caught 10 passes for 142 yards, Javontea Robinson had 7.5 tackles and Colby Baker added seven to lead the Panthers.
Zane Lattig caught six passes for 85 yards, Conczak finished with 67 yards on three catches, Evan Leist had 7.5 tackles and Colin McNay added 6.5 to lead the Pioneers.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak in the playoffs by the Pioneers, who hadn’t won a postseason game since their first one in 2009.
Orange meets second-seeded Pickerington Central in a regional semifinal Friday at 7 p.m. at a site to be announced.
“Our biggest goal of the year was to win the OCC,” Hill said. “Our second biggest goal was to – not only win a playoff game – but make a run. The seniors are really committed and the coaching staff is really committed. I think if we keep doing what we know how to – then we’ll be really successful.”