Big Walnut’s Jake Nier and Nicky Pentello hooked up for a 24-yard touchdown with 1:57 left, but host Westerville South recovered the ensuing onside kick and bled out the clock to secure a 31-24 OCC-Capital Division win Friday night in Westerville.
It was the Golden Eagles’ first regular-season loss in more than a year.
It was also the first game in a long, long time they were outgained on the ground as the Wildcats’ Nasir Phillips and Ethan Hanna combined for nearly 300 yards and three scores on the ground.
Hanna, who had just five carries, made sure to make them count. His first went for a 68-yard touchdown to put South up 7-0 with 7:35 left in the first quarter.
Nate Severs, who had a 100-yard night of his own, evened things up on Big Walnut’s next series, capping the drive with a one-yard TD run with 1:25 left in the opening quarter.
The Wildcats, who led 10-7 at the break, took a 17-7 lead when QB Dominic Birtha used his legs to scamper into the end zone from 13 yards out midway through the third quarter.
The lead was short-lived, though, as the defending OCC champs battled back to even the score by the early stages of the fourth quarter. Nier connected with Pentello for a 33-yard touchdown with three minutes and change to play in the third before Cam Gladden booted a 30-yard field goal to even things up with 10:47 left.
From there, though, South used its ground game and defense to seal the deal.
After Phillips capped a strong drive with a one-yard TD run, making it a 24-17 game, the Wildcat defense turned around and stopped Severs on a fourth-and-one play from midfield with a little more than six minutes to go.
Phillips, who had 26 carries for 164 yards when all was said and done, scored from three-yards out to make it a 31-17 game before Pentello found the end zone to set up the onside kick attempt.
South finished with 423 yards overall, 313 of those coming on the ground.
Buckeye Valley 15, Bexley 7
After scoring 36 points in a double-overtime thriller a week ago, the Barons leaned on their defense to pick up their second MSL-Ohio win in as many weeks Friday night in Bexley.
Buckeye Valley broke the scoring seal when Garrett Slater plowed into the end zone from two yards out with 2:29 left in the first quarter. Alex Landis added the PAT to make it a 7-0 game.
Bexley got back to even when Dominic Gutter caught a touchdown pass from five yards out midway through the second, but the Barons’ Nathan Huss scored on a three-yard run a couple minutes before halftime to put his team up for good.
Mitchell Melfe converted the ensuing two-point attempt and the Baron defense pitched a shutout in the second half to account for the final margin.
Olentangy 41, Central Crossing 27
Ethan Grunkemeyer threw for 245 yards and three TDs as the Braves knocked off the host Comets in non-league action Friday night in Columbus.
Olentangy jumped out to 34-7 lead by halftime. Grunkemeyer used his legs to score from 11 yards out less than four minutes into the game — the first of two rushing touchdowns — before throwing TD passes to Steffan Somers (27 yards) and Andrew Leech (13 yards).
Matthew Tobias also had a pair of field goals as the Braves built their big halftime lead.
Freshman Kaden Gebhardt, who had three interceptions in the win, and the Olentangy defense handled the rest.
Olentangy Berlin 23, Hilliard Davidson 14
The Bears pitched a shutout in the second half to edge the host Wildcats in non-league action Friday night in Hilliard.
Berlin led 13-0 by the end of the first quarter. Harrison Brewster hit Josh Gavin for a 22-yard score before scoring on a keeper from two yards out with 1:03 left.
Davidson took a brief 14-13 lead with back-to-back scores in the second, but Spencer Conrad’s 53-yard field goal at the end of the first half put the Bears on top for good.
A one-yard TD run by Brewster late in the third quarter smoothed out the scoring summary.
Olentangy Orange 43, Newark 7
Bobby Ogles ran for 100-plus yards and a score and J.J. Calip had 104 yards receiving as the Pioneers cruised past the host Wildcats in non-league action Friday night in Newark.
Orange led 22-0 by the end of the first quarter and never looked back.
Levi Davis completed 13 of his 21 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown to complement the work of Ogles and Calip.
The Pioneer defense, meanwhile, allowed just 132 yards of total offense.
Olentangy Liberty 27, New Albany 0
Andrew Leonard completed 26 of his 42 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown, Jake Struck ran for 43 yards and a score and the defense kept the visiting Eagles off the board all night long as the Patriots nabbed a convincing non-league win Friday night in Powell.
Liberty led 20-0 at halftime and never looked back, punctuating the win when Struck scored from two yards out with 4:53 left in the third quarter.