Despite being up 17-0 at halftime of Friday’s Division I, Region 2 quarterfinal against visiting and ninth-seeded Miamisburg, it wasn’t until the second half Olentangy coach Wade Bartholomew knew his top-seeded Braves were ready for a deep postseason push.
The Vikings scored on their first drive of the second half and, after getting a stop on the defensive end, were driving in hopes of making it a one-score game midway through the third.
Instead, though, top-seeded Olentangy made a huge play to totally flip the script.
“Being able to handle the emotions of playoff football is huge,” Bartholomew said. “We’re playing good football teams that are gonna make big plays and score touchdowns. We’ve got to be able to come out, take that first drive of the second half knowing they scored, and be able to go and do something big.”
Friday, that “something big” was a pick six from Gavin Grover — a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown that flipped a 17-7 game into a 24-7 edge the Braves parlayed into a lopsided 38-21 win.
Against the Vikings, the Braves (11-1) got 162 passing yards and three touchdowns from QB Ethan Grunkemeyer and a team-best 82 yards on the ground from Riley Clarkson. Jackson Wiley led the receiving corps with four grabs for 47 yards and a touchdown. Sam Uhlenhake and Zach Griffith also had touchdowns in the win.
Kevin Porter and Daniel Stephens anchored the defense with sacks while Lucas Jackson recovered a fumble to go with Grover’s touchdown-scoring INT.
The Braves will need more of the same as the postseason rolls along. Next up, they’ll take on 12th-seeded Springfield in Friday’s regional semifinal. The Wildcats, who lost to Lakewood St. Edward in last season’s state championship game, upset fourth-seeded Centerville, 17-10, in their quarterfinal.
“They’re gonna be full of athletes so we have to be able to handle their athleticism,” Bartholomew said of his team’s next opponent. “They’ve been here before … so our kids just have to know it’s going to be a big-time game. Not every game is going to be a 20-point game, sometimes they’ll be 10-7 or something like that, so we have to be able to play in those really intense games.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Hilliard Darby.