Olentangy Liberty quarterback Mitch Fields threw just one pass in a backup role last season.
It was incomplete.
He threw a few incompletions as a starter in Friday’s season opener against host Olentangy Berlin, too, but not many.
The senior, who has waited for his chance to run the show, all but stole it against the Bears, completing 17 of his 22 passes for 233 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Patriots to a 35-21 win.
He hit five different receivers. Chase Brecht and Matt Hale had five grabs apiece — Brecht’s covering 93 yards and Hale’s 74 — while Cam Barcus had four receptions for 42 yards and a pair of scores.
Fields hit Brecht for a 14-yard TD to put the Patriots up 28-21 with 6:06 left in the third and all but sealed the deal with a 15-yard scoring strike to Barcus with 7:36 to play.
Fields and company needed every yard and point they accounted for, too, as the Bears, fresh off last season’s first-ever playoff appearance, showed they’re more than capable of hanging with the big boys.
After Liberty took a 6-0 lead when Adam Lane returned a blocked field goal 90 yards to the house, Berlin QB Jacob Moeller capped the ensuing drive with a five-yard TD pass to Ryan Horstman to make it a 7-6 game with 43 seconds left in the first quarter.
Aidan Kenley put the Patriots back on top with a 12-yard touchdown run early in the second, and Fields and Barcus connected for a five-yard touchdown to make it 20-7 with 4:54 left in the half, but the Bears ended the first half and started the second with a surge.
Berlin’s Nick Tiberio plowed into the end zone from three yards out to make it 20-14 with 11 seconds left before halftime and, after receiving the ball to start the second half, Moeller hit Bennett Lawrence for an 86-yard TD to put the Bears on top, 21-20 with 11:07 left in the third.
That’s when Liberty took over, scoring the last 15 points of the game to smooth out the scoring summary.
Moeller completed 28 of his 41 passes for 407 yards and two touchdowns while Tiberio rushed for 52 yards and his touchdown on 17 attempts.
Lawrence had a huge night receiving, finishing with 10 grabs for 219 yards a his score, while Aidan Loeffler had nine receptions for 96 yards when all was said and done.
Olentangy 7, Olentangy Orange 3
The Braves were efficient on offense and effective on defense en route to a season-opening win over the rival Pioneers Friday night in Lewis Center.
Olentangy (1-0) scored all the points it would need when quarterback Kaden Doup plowed into the end zone from a yard out with 5:30 left in the first quarter.
The defense had something to do with that, limiting the Pioneers to just 174 yards of total offense and one score — a 22-yard field goal by Jack Behre that made it 7-3 with 11:14 to play in the fourth.
The offense, though, did its part by simply keeping the ball away from Orange for most of the night. Olentangy ran just eight more plays than Orange, but possessed the ball almost twice as long (31-plus minutes compared to the Pioneers’ 16:46).
One drive alone, which coincidentally didn’t result in points, chewed up more than 10 minutes of the second quarter.
Doup threw an interception in his season debut, but was otherwise pretty efficient, completing eight of his 10 passes for 80 yards.
Caleb Gossett was his top target, finishing with three grabs for 32 yards, while Landon Johnson led the charge on the ground with 10 carries for 55 yards.
Quarterback Josh Laisure accounted for most of the Pioneer offense. He completed six of his 10 attempts for 77 yards and rushed 16 times for 76 yards, both team highs.
Caden Konczak was also steady, finishing with four receptions for 52 yards in the setback.
Harvest Prep 56, Buckeye Valley 25
The Barons couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start, jumping out to a 17-6 lead before weather delays put the game on hold.
When play finally resumed, it was all Warriors.
Buckeye Valley forced a turnover on downs on the opening possession of the game and, after getting the ball at the Warrior 24-yard line, took an early 6-0 lead when Alex Contreras scored on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Anthony Hughes.
Felipe Scharff added a 29-yard field goal to balloon the Baron edge to 9-0 and Hughes found Contreras again, this time from six yards out, to make it 17-0 late in the first quarter after a two-point conversion — a pass from Hughes to Will Weinberg.
The Warriors scored the next 22 points, though, and after BV regained the lead by the break — going up 25-22 on a four-yard TD run by Hughes and successful two-point conversion to Contreras late in the second — smoothed out the scoring summary with 34 unanswered points in the second half.
Hughes completed 11 of his 28 passes for 88 yards and the two TDs to Contreras, who had eight grabs for 52 yards to go with his scores.
Hughes also rushed 10 times for 49 yards and the TD in the setback.