Mitchell Okuley hooked up with Ryan Ritter for a 33-yard touchdown with 6:40 to play in the fourth quarter to lift the Olentangy Liberty football team to a 14-7 win over visiting Gahanna in the Division 1, Region 2 opener Friday night in Powell.
“We had a young kid, a JV kid come in for one play for us and he scored a touchdown,” Patriot coach Steve Hale said. “You just never know how things are going to turn out in this game.”
The touchdown was set up by a pair of nice runs from Okuley — an 18-yarder on first-and-20 earlier in the game-winning drive and a four-yarder on a third-and-two at the Gahanna 39 a few plays later.
“He’s a great athlete,” Hale said of his senior quarterback. “There’s a reason he’s going to Ohio State to play baseball … he’s good at everything he does and we wouldn’t be here without his leadership.”
The defense took over after the touchdown, stuffing Gahanna QB Will Thomas for no gain on a fourth-and-one play at the Liberty 24 with 2:17 to play to all but seal the deal.
“The defense played lights out all night long for us,” Hale said.
Despite turnovers costing both teams deep in enemy territory, both were able to get on the board in the first half.
Thomas hit C.J. Kiss for a nine-yard touchdown to open the scoring summary. Tyler Koss added the PAT to give the Lions a 7-0 edge with 6:03 left in the first quarter.
The Patriots looked poised to even things up on the ensuing possession, but Percy King intercepted Okuley in the end zone to end the threat.
The teams traded possessions to start the second quarter before Liberty got the equalizer it was looking for when Okuley powered into the end zone on a keeper from a yard out with 2:53 left in the half. Mitchell Kershner added the extra point to even things up.
The TD was set up by a clutch conversion on fourth-and-three just a few plays earlier. Okuley connected with Jake Sincek for a five-yard gain to give his team a first-and-goal from the Gahanna three.
Liberty ran for 198 yards in the win, 120 from Aidan Kenley and another 64 from Okuley.
Next up, the Patriots will take on top-seeded Reynoldsburg in next week’s second round.
Toledo Whitmer 20, Olentangy Orange 17
Robbie Dayhuff scored on a 21-yard keeper to give the Pioneers a late lead, but the Panthers’ Kobe Myers answered with a one-yard TD with 1:52 left to lift his team to a win in the first round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs Friday in Toledo.
Whitmer scored the only points of the first half, making it 7-0 when Myers scampered into the end zone from 11 yards out with 8:54 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers added to their edge when Riley Keller hit Dalan Layton for a 28-yard score with 10:10 left in the third.
A failed two-point try kept the score at 13-0 before Orange stormed back to take its late lead.
Aidan Hill connected on a 34-yard field goal to make it 13-3 with 6:04 left in the third quarter, Dayhuff ran for a one-yard score to make it 13-10 early in the fourth and then scored his second with 5:55 left.
Dayhuff completed 10 of his 23 passes for 88 yards while rushing for 117 yards on 19 carries to go with his two touchdowns.
Jake Vanchieri was also solid in the setback, finishing with 111 yards on 23 carries.
Whitmer’s Keller completed 17 of his 23 passes for 154 yards and a score while Myers finished with 91 yards on 14 carries.