Each of the last two years, the difference between the Olentangy and Olentangy Orange football teams has been razor thin.
Friday night was no different.
The crosstown clash came down to a missed two-point conversion in overtime to give visiting Olentangy its first victory over rival Orange in two seasons – a 35-34 win in Lewis Center.
“It’s huge,” senior Luke Riedel said. “We’ve lost the last two years. It just feels so good to get a dub our senior year.”
“After all this time – to put the work in and then come through and get the dub tonight … it’s just special,” senior D’Ante Ables said.
And as coach Mark Solis pointed out after the game, Olentangy is right in the thick of it in the OCC-Buckeye and still alive for a fifth consecutive playoff bid.
“It’s been a grind this year – a lot of coulda, woulda, shoulda’s,” he said. “We feel like we should be 5-1 right now, but we’re not. We’ve still got a lot to play for. The playoffs are a definite possibility.”
Zane Lattig caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Robbie Dayhuff on Orange’s first offensive play in overtime to set up the two-point conversion.
Orange tried to win it with a two-point conversion, but Dayhuff’s screen pass to Zach Harrison fell incomplete.
“I put those guys in the situation because I had the sense that they wanted to go for the win at that point,” Orange coach Zebb Schroeder said. “Our kicking game has been sporadic at times – it’s not a knock on them. I just felt confident that we had a play.”
Solis wasn’t second-guessing Schroeder’s decision to go for two.
“It’s funny because I almost went for two after the first touchdown,” Solis said. “We had something dialed up that we like. Honestly, had they scored first and kicked the extra point and we turned around and we scored – I was gonna go for two myself. So, I understand what he was thinking because I was going to do it myself.”
Ian Drummond, who had a 12-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, caught a 19-yard fade down the right sideline to convert a third-and-12 in overtime. Zach Shiblaq scored on the next play and Brady Pethtel booted through what turned out to be the difference-maker.
“We were fighting the entire game,” Drummond said. “We all came together and fought as a team. It’s the biggest win we’ve had all year.”
Ables blocked a field goal at the end of regulation to help Olentangy send it to overtime.
“The ball snapped and … it was like it was in slow motion,” he said. “I dive for it and it hits me.”
Riedel was at the center of big play after big play for Olentangy. He returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to tie the game 7-7 after Harrison won a jump ball for a 5-yard touchdown.
“I was patient and waited for a hole,” Riedel said. “My guys got me some blocks and I just hit it. It was a big play in the game because it was right after they scored.”
Riedel deflected a Dayhuff deep ball over the middle into the hands of teammate Max Walden for an interception later in the frame.
“(Riedel is) our best football player,” Solis said. “I don’t like Luke Riedel – I love Luke Riedel. He absolutely gets it. He practices hard, he plays hard, he makes plays, he’s unselfish … he epitomizes what you look for in a student athlete and just a young person in general.”
He was also on the other end of a big play. Olentangy quarterback Connor Haag found him on the left sideline on a quick pass.
But, Orange’s Mitchell Gifford took the ball away from him on the tackle and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to give Orange a 21-14 lead with 27 seconds left before the break.
“He made a great play,” Schroeder said. “He did a great a job there as the second man in on a tackle of just taking the ball away. I am so happy for him. He’s a senior and he’s worked hard and made a great play to change momentum in this game.”
Riedel responded well. He caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Haag on Olentangy’s first possession of the second half to tie it 21-all.
Dayhuff took a quarterback draw 37 yards down the left sideline to set up a Jake Vanchieri 2-yard touchdown to give the Pioneers the lead again.
Then, Riedel had a 16-yard run before Haag found Caden Kaiser to convert a fourth down to get into the Orange red zone.
That’s when Gifford came up with his second fumble recovery. He picked up a bad exchange at the five to keep the Pioneers in front.
After the teams exchanged possessions, Kaiser caught a Haag ball over the middle and turned it into a 62-yard pass play to set up Shiblaq’s 1-yard touchdown to tie it at 28-28 with 6:07 left in regulation.
Orange had the ball until the end of regulation – using another Harrison jump ball catch for a 25-yard gain to get inside the 10 to set up Aidan Hill’s go-ahead field goal try with seconds left.
“We called two right runs to get a little more centered up,” Schroeder said. “They just ended up hitting back. I wanted to let our playmakers try to go for the win (on third down). I have confidence with our field goal unit. I didn’t see the tape, but it looked like (Olentangy) got some guys on the right side through there (on the block).”
Haag went 12-for-17 for 146 yards and two touchdowns and Shiblaq had 94 yards rushing on 21 carries, two for touchdowns to lead Olentangy (3-4, 2-0).
Dayhuff finished 16-for-22 for 174 yards and three touchdowns through the air and added a team-high 88 yards on 17 carries on the ground to lead the Pioneers (4-3, 1-1).
Sam Wynn had two catches for 60 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.
Both teams continue league play next week. Olentangy travels to rival Olentangy Liberty and Orange visits Westerville Central. Both are scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.
Coming off this win – we definitely feel more confident,” Drummond said. “Tomorrow, we get to watch film, lift, run and get ready for Liberty. That’s our main goal right now … take it one week at a time.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at email@example.com.