POWELL — Olentangy Liberty breezed to a 35-0 victory over the Miamisburg Vikings on Friday night to stay alive in the expanded 2020 OHSAA playoffs.
Quarterback Mitch Fields led the way for the Patriots offense, completing 12 of his 13 attempts for 152 yards and three touchdowns, and running back Aidan Kenley added two first-half rushing scores in the rout.
A balanced offensive attack from the Patriots was complemented by a suffocating defensive effort that allowed just one Miamisburg trip inside the red zone en route to the shutout.
The tone for the game was set immediately by the Patriots in the opening sequences. Liberty’s defense forced a quick stop on Miamisburg’s first drive of the game, and a poor punt set up the Patriots with tremendous field position as the offense trotted out onto the field for its first possession.
Liberty’s offense wasted no time imposing its will on the Vikings. Aided by a pair of penalties on the Vikings defense, the Patriots needed just four plays to make their first trip into the red zone. Kenley capped off the drive with a two-yard touchdown run, and Tyler Rosselli’s extra point gave Liberty the early 7-0 lead minutes into the game.
Another quick stop by the Patriots’ defense and another poor punt by Miamisburg set up Liberty again with great field position at its own 45-yard line to start its second drive. Four plays later, Fields connected with receiver Dom Magistrale from 40 yards out to increase the Liberty lead to 14-0 with just over two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Sacks by Liberty’s Josh Piela and Magistrale on the ensuing drive forced Miamisburg to go three-and-out and punt once more, and the Patriots took over at midfield, looking to deliver the knockout blow early.
Following a 17-yard throw and catch from Fields to Chase Brecht, and a 25-yard run by Kenley, Liberty would do just that. Facing a third-and-goal from the Miamisburg 3-yard line, Kenley busted into the end zone for his second score of the night. Rosselli’s extra point pushed the Patriots’ lead to 21-0 with 10:41 remaining in the second quarter, and there would be little pushback from Miamisburg for the remainder of the game.
Matt Hale hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Fields on Liberty’s next drive to push the Patriots’ lead to 28-0 with three minutes remaining in the first half.
The wheels would completely fall off for Miamisburg on the ensuing kickoff, which was fumbled and recovered by Liberty’s Caron Carrier at the Vikings’ 13-yard line.
One play later, the Patriots were celebrating in the end zone again as Fields connected with Cam Barcus for a 13-yard touchdown pass and a 35-point lead.
Miamisburg would mount its best drive of the game just before halftime, moving the ball to the Liberty 10-yard line. Fittingly, however, the Vikings’ prospects of getting on the scoreboard came to a crashing halt as Brian Yamokoski stepped in front of quarterback Justin Barry’s pass for an interception, preserving the shutout.
Yamokoski returned the interception back to near midfield where Liberty would run out the remainder of the first half, heading into the locker room with plenty of breathing room.
With a sizeable lead and a running clock, Liberty head coach Steve Hale was liberal with his substitutions to begin the second half as both second-team units took the field to open the third quarter and salt away the win.
Following the game, Hale’s message to his team was simple: take one game at a time as they look to make good on unfinished business left by last year’s disappointing loss in the regional semifinals.
“Any time you lose a playoff game like we did last year, it just burns you,” Hale said following the game. “You think you have a good team and you can continue on, and it just burns in you all offseason, and you just want to get another chance.”
Hale said he told his team following practice on Thursday that he’s been thinking about getting to this moment since he walked off the field in Gahanna last season after the 13-7 loss to Groveport, and so, too, have his players.
“We just took advantage of some things early, and our kids made some really nice plays to open a gap,” Hale said. “It’s hard in playoff games when you fall behind … I thought we played well. Our offensive line did a great job, and our skill players took advantage of that. Defensively, it was outstanding. Our guys were flying around, hitting, and making plays.
“Obviously, there will be some things on film that we need to fix, but I’m just very pleased with the kids. The demeanor that we came out with is very encouraging.”
Liberty (6-1) will continue postseason play next Friday when Kettering Fairmont (3-4) travels to Powell to take on the Patriots.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.