Wildcats end Patriots’ stellar run


The Olentangy Liberty football team came up with a couple turnovers inside the five-yard line to keep things close through the first half, but Springfield pulled away in the second to post a 35-7 Division I regional final win Friday night in London.

The loss ended what was a stellar run for the Patriots, who started the season 0-3 before rounding into form down the stretch … just in time for the playoffs.

Down just the two scores at the break, the deciding stretch came in the third. The Patriots moved the ball to midfield before turning it over on downs. The Wildcats, meanwhile, converted a couple fourth downs on the ensuing drive — picking up a 4th-and-1 with a strike from Bryce Schondelmyer to Anthony Brown and a second on a pass to Shawn Thigpen to the Liberty 10.

Bailey Bird sacked Schondelmyer to make things difficult on the Wildcats, but the QB, who completed 28 of his 31 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns, came right back with a 16-yard TD strike to Brown to make it a 21-0 game with 2:50 left in the third quarter. Brown was Schondelmyer’s top target, collecting nine grabs for 139 yards in the win.

The Patriots responded, as they’ve done all year — Andrew Leonard hit Evan Nelson for a 24-yard scoring strike with 11:19 left in the fourth quarter — but it wasn’t enough as Springfield answered with a TD of its own as Schondelmyer hit Dashawn Martin from 2 yards out to make it 28-7 with 7:57 left.

A two-yard TD run by DayAirion Owens with 1:05 left smoothed out the scoring summary.

The second-seeded Wildcats put their foot on the gas right away, picking up first downs on completions to Daylen Bradley and Duncan Bradley on the game’s first series. Schondelmyer then connected with Brown for a first down to the Patriot 10, but Byrd recovered a fumble inside the 5 to keep the game scoreless.

Leonard looked to get his team going after that, picking up a first down with his legs to get out of the shadow of his own end zone, but was sacked by the Wildcats’ Bryce Washington on the next play — derailing the drive.

Springfield took over near midfield after the stop … and didn’t take long to take advantage of the solid field position. Schondelmyer hit Martin for a first down to the 25, Brown had a nice run to the 3-yard line and, a play later, Schondelmyer scored on a keeper from a yard out to break the scoring seal.

Sam Fralick added the PAT to make it a 7-0 game with 3:35 left in the first quarter.

Liberty moved the ball on its ensuing drive, picking up a nice chunk courtesy of the pass interference penalty on the Wildcats, then another 26 all the way to the Springfield 31 on a completion to Nelson. Leonard hit Alex Okuley for 18 yards on a 3rd-and-20, then hit Nelson on a quick slant to convert a 4th-and-2.

Leonard’s next slant pass was intercepted by Tawfig Jabbar, however, ending the threat at the Springfield 10-yard line.

The Wildcats ballooned their advantage to 14-0 midway through the second quarter when Jayvin Norman punched the ball to the 1-yard line before plowing into the end zone on the next play. The PAT made it 14-0 with 5:57 left in the half.

After a Liberty 3-and-out, Springfield looked poised to put more points on the board just before the break, but couldn’t crack the Patriot defense. Liberty stopped Brown and Schondelmyer on back-to-back plays to keep it a 14-point spread at halftime.

Leonard completed 13 of his 20 passes for the Patriots, finishing with 167 yards and a touchdown. Nelson was his top target, finishing with five receptions for 76 yards and Liberty’s lone score.

With the win, Springfield advances to the state semifinals for the fourth straight year.

Olentangy Liberty quarterback Andrew Leonard fights for extra yardage before being taken down by a pack of Wildcats in the first half of Friday’s Division I regional final at London.
https://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2022/11/web1_IMG_8411-2-1.jpgOlentangy Liberty quarterback Andrew Leonard fights for extra yardage before being taken down by a pack of Wildcats in the first half of Friday’s Division I regional final at London. Ben Stroup | The Gazette
Advance to 4th straight state semifinal

By Ben Stroup

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