It’s hard to miss Zach Harrison.
Quarterback Robbie Dayhuff certainly didn’t have any trouble finding the senior, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds.
Dayhuff sent lob after lob after lob up for Harrison to go up and get, and he made enough of those plays for the Olentangy Orange football team to get a 17-3 win at district rival Olentangy Liberty Friday night in Powell.
“These guys had a quiet confidence about them all week that it was their time,” Orange coach Zebb Schroeder said. “Everything fit this week. Our kids … I can’t say enough. We’ve had our adverse moments this year. But, it seems like each one we have just brings them closer.”
Harrison caught four passes for 137 yards on offense and had 6.5 tackles, including four for-loss and 2.5 sacks.
“I was just making plays when my number was called,” Harrison said.
It’s been a long time coming for the Pioneers, who pick up their second win in the series, first since 2011 and first win in Powell.
“It means a lot,” Harrison said. “I’ve never beat these guys … ever – going back to OYAA. So, this is a huge one for me.”
It’s been a long, tough road for the Pioneers, who had a 24-6 lead through three quarters last season before falling 25-24.
The Pioneers also took Liberty to double-overtime two years ago before falling by a touchdown – one of two seven-point losses to Liberty, including a first-round loss in the playoffs.
“We’ve been knocking at the door here (for a while),” Schroeder said. “Those guys did a lot of the work to get up the mountain.”
Orange also puts itself in place for a possible league championship. The Pioneers are now tied with the Patriots and other rival Olentangy. But, that will be decided next week.
Liberty was so bottled up offensively in the first half, it needed a big special teams play to set up its only score. Dylan Stevens returned a Jack Fenton punt 29 yards to the Orange 19.
Zach Hill’s sack on third down forced the Patriots to settle for a Mitchell Kershner 34-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 9:54 left in the half.
Hill had a big night for the Orange defense, which held Liberty to just 82 yards of total offense. Hill had nine tackles and a sack – one of four for the Pioneers (6-3, 3-1). Dom Davis also had an interception to help the defense.
“We didn’t do a great job of making plays,” Liberty coach Steve Hale said. “I didn’t do a good job of calling plays. We put ourselves in difficult situations and couldn’t convert those situations.”
Orange responded with the first sustained drive of the half for either team. Dayhuff, who started 0-for-5, completed all three passes on the drive.
He completed two passes to Harrison for 45 yards and a third to Zane Lattig for 7 yards on fourth down to keep the drive alive. Dayhuff scored on a 1-yard run to give the Pioneers a 7-3 lead with 3:50 remaining in the second.
“We knew down in that territory (inside the opponent’s 20) – we were gonna go for touchdowns,” Schroeder said. “We had that smash-route to Zane on fourth down and we like it. It was a great job by Zane and Robbie to execute it.”
Harrison caught a 52-yard jump ball on third down to set up a 22-yard Aidan Hill field goal to give the Pioneers a 10-3 lead with eight minutes left in the third.
Dayhuff rolled a punt 47 yards down to Liberty’s 5. Then, Mitchell Faulkner turned it into a touchdown. He intercepted Mitchell Okuley and returned it 18 yards for a score to push the lead to 17-3 with 2:45 left in the frame.
Ben Cox had a game-high 10 tackles and Tyson Chapman had five tackles, three for loss and a pair of tackles to lead the Patriots (5-4, 3-1).
Both teams finish up the regular season next week. Orange hosts Westerville North and Liberty travels to Westerville South. Both are schedule to kick off at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at email@example.com.