POWELL — For the second consecutive week, few things went right for the Olentangy Liberty offense. But behind a dominant defensive effort and just enough from the Patriots offense, Liberty overcame a late deficit on Friday evening to defeat the Glenville Tarblooders, 7-6.
Liberty quarterback Ryan Grohe’s touchdown pass to receiver Alex Okuley with 9:04 remaining in the fourth quarter wound up being the deciding margin after a frantic attempt by Glenville in the final seconds was turned away by the Patriots defense.
Much like the two offenses on the field, the game proved to be difficult to get off the ground after lightning in the area forced a delay of more than an hour just seven minutes into a scoreless first quarter.
Coming out of the delay, Liberty appeared poised to finally break the stalemate, dialing up eight consecutive running plays that gave the Patriots a fresh set of downs at the Glenville 15-yard line early in the second quarter. The Glenville defense would hold, however, and Liberty’s chance at points was turned away when Domenic Tempesta’s fourth-down carry was stopped short of the marker.
With the two teams still scoreless late in the first half, Glenville threatend to take the lead just before halftime. After moving the ball to the Liberty 28-yard line, the Tarblooders nearly captued that elusive lead, but a pass to a wide-open receiver in the end zone sailed long, thwarting the opportunity and sending the teams into halftime still scoreless.
Glenville would again flirt with taking the lead early in the third quarter, moving the ball deep into Liberty territory. Set up with a first down at the Patriots’ 28-yard line, an illegal motion put Glenville behind the chains, and another failed fourth down attempt ended what was once another promising drive.
With both teams desperate for points, it appeared the Glenville defense was going to deliver the defining moment of the game on the ensuing drive. Liberty’s Chase Brecht was hit from behind on a short carry, jarring the ball loose. Glenville’s Jessie Agee scooped the loose ball and raced 62 yards down the Glenvilel sideline and into the end zone, breaking the scoreless tie and giving Liberty its first deficit of the game.
Glenville missed the extra point, however, a blunder that would prove to be very costly over the final minutes of the game.
Now in a hole, and with all the momentum residing on the opposite sideline, the Liberty offense found its collective backs up against the wall as time grew late. And they would deliver.
A big kickoff return by Nick Johnson set up the Patriots with great field position, and a third down scramble and completion from Grohe to Okuley kept the drive alive as Liberty moved deeper into Glenville territory. The drive was teetering on another wasted opportunity, however, after Liberty found itself in a fourth and long situation following a pair of negative plays.
But Okuley had other ideas, pulling down the desperation heave from Grohe in the end zone to tie the game and send the Liberty faithful in attendance into a frenzy. The extra point was good, and Liberty had its first lead of the game with just 9:04 remaining in the game.
Glenville would not go quietly, though, and even appeared poised to deliver a knockout blow in the final seconds of the game.
Three consecutive completions by Glenville quarterback Demarion Witten had the Tarblooders out across midfield, and a 31-yard scramble by Witten had his team knocking on the door of the go-ahead score with less than a minute to play.
Set up with a fresh set of downs at the Liberty 14-yard line, a critical holding penalty on a Tarblooders offensive lineman set the drive back to the 24-yard line, and that’s where the Liberty defense would slam the door shut one final time.
Witten was sacked on the next play by Liberty’s Freddy Noday, pushing Glenville all the way back to the 40-yard line. With no timeouts remaining, Glenville was forced to attempt one last desperation throw, but Witten was again sacked as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Following the game, Liberty head coach Steve Hale said of his team’s effort, “We just battled. We have some kids that are trying to be varsity football players for the first time. They’ve been in backup roles and different things, but we’re bringing them along. It was a nice test for them in handling adversity, battling through it, and making plays when they needed to. I’m really proud of our kids.”
With the win, Liberty moves to 1-1 on the season. The Patriots will play host to state powerhouse St. Xavier next Friday.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.