The Olentangy Berlin football team stunned the home crowd on Friday night, pulling off a thrilling 31-24 overtime win over host Olentangy Orange after being down 24-10 with nine minutes left in regulation.
Things started a lot better than they finished for the Pioneers. On their second drive of the game, senior quarterback Jake Werling connected with senior receiver Jordan Rudolph for a 61-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left in the first quarter to open the scoring summary at Pioneer Field.
The Bears marched down the field quickly on their next drive, but the Pioneers held them to a field goal after they failed to score from the five-yard line on three consecutive plays, making the score 7-3 with 7:30 left in the second quarter.
The game was delayed with 6:44 in the second quarter because of lightning. It resumed more than an hour later, shortly after 9 p.m.
“I thought our energy was great even with the delays,” Orange coach Zebb Schroeder said. “It’s just a bummer that we couldn’t capitalize and put the game away, whether it was another first down or another stop. We just couldn’t get that last play.”
After the long lightning delay, the Pioneer offense took the field from the Berlin 17-yard line. A few plays later, Werling found senior receiver Max Reidelbach on a 6-yard, back-shoulder fade to put the Pioneers up 14-3 with 5:27 left in the second quarter.
The Bears blocked a 30-yard field goal with two minutes left in the second quarter, but fumbled the ball away just a few plays later, allowing the Pioneers to engineer their own two-minute drill as senior kicker Jack Behre was able to convert a 32-yard field goal with one second left to give the Pioneers a 17-3 edge going into the half.
As soon as backup quarterback Harrison Brewster entered the game on his team’s first drive of the second half, though, the Bears’ offense started moving the chains. Berlin got down to the opposing 21-yard line on the drive, but dropped three straight passes and then missed a 35-yard field goal wide right.
On its next possession, Brewster scored on a 1-yard keeper with 3:41 left in the third quarter to pull the Bears within a score, 17-10.
Werling got his third passing TD of the night on a 19-yard strike to Noah Taylor, putting the Pioneers up 24-10 with just over 11 minutes left in the game. But, on the ensuing possession, the Bears marched down the field and Brewster picked up his second rushing TD of the night, this one a 4-yarder, making it a one-score game again at 24-17.
With 7:21 left in the game, the Pioneers were forced to kick it away deep in their own territory and were only able to get it out to their own 30 after a 15-yard punt.
The Bears capitalized on it in a hurry, evening things up at 24 with 3:15 to play after a 1-yard keeper by Brewster.
Berlin opened up the overtime scoring with a miraculous catch-and-run TD by Jason Harris, giving it its first lead of the game, 31-24.
The Bears then stopped the Pioneers at the goal line on fourth down to seal the comeback victory in OT, giving them their second hard-fought victory in a row to start off the year. Orange falls to 0-2 after the heartbreaking loss to its crosstown rival.
“Kudos to Berlin,” Schroeder said. “That quarterback (Brewster) was running all over us. I think we’ll find it. It’s all about how you execute. We have to get back to the drawing board.”