In a tough, down-to-the-wire defensive battle between two 0-3 teams, it was the Olentangy football team that came away with its first win of the 2021 season Friday night in Lewis Center.
The Braves beat visiting Olentangy Orange, 24-21.
“We were 0-3 and that hasn’t happened around here in my nine years here,” Olentangy coach Mark Solis said. “We have so many young guys, I’ll tell you what, we showed some resilience. Our guys played tough all 48 minutes, it was a great, emotional win.”
Orange marched down the field impressively on its first drive of the game. Senior quarterback Jake Werling found senior wide receiver Max Reidelbach on a 20-yard seam route on the first play from scrimmage. Junior Bobby Ogles went for a tough 15-yarder where he carried a few Olentangy defenders on his back for the last 10. Senior Luke Houston then punched it in from a yard out to put Orange up 7-0 with 8:46 to go in the first quarter.
The Braves were able to get to the redzone on their first drive, but they were only able to get a field goal on the board, making it 7-3 Pioneers with 3:55 left in the first.
Olentangy was held to a field goal again on its second redzone trip, making the score 7-6 with 9:12 left in the second quarter.
After getting the ball back again, the Olentangy offense responded with a 23-yard scoring strike from sophomore quarterback Ethan Grunkenmeyer to senior receiver Ryan Petrone, putting Olentangy up 13-7 with 41 seconds left in the half.
The second half was a whole different game. The intensity picked up and both teams looked more comfortable moving the ball. It was a half filled with penalties.
The Orange defense forced a fumble and recovered it on the first drive of the second half. The Pioneers took over from the opposing 35-yard line and Werling scored on an 18-yard scamper to put the Pioneers up 14-13 with 8:22 left in the third quarter.
With a few minutes left in the third, Orange’s Junior Sarpong intercepted Grunkenmeyer a few yards out of his own endzone. It was the second turnover of the half for the Braves, but it did not prove to be costly as they forced a punt after another Pioneer drive was stifled by penalties.
On fourth-and-seven, with six minutes left in the game, down one, Grunkenmeyer dropped back and found senior receiver Dubby Agudosi, who spun and bounced off two Orange defenders and took it 38-yards to the house to give Olentangy the lead. The Braves decided to go for two and converted on a tough run to give them a seven-point lead, 21-14.
Werling scored on a 1-yard keeper with 48 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 21.
The Olentangy offense did not want to play for overtime.
With under a minute left, Grunkenmeyer found one of his receivers for 40 yards, putting the Braves in good position for a potential game-winning field goal attempt. Hayden Olcott took care of the rest. The Olentangy kicker drilled the 25-yarder with seven seconds left on the clock, giving the Braves their first win of the season.
“We knew it was going to be tough. I think we both had tremendous gameplans. Our kids just made the plays. You have to throw the records out the window in games like this,” Solis said.
The Braves travel to Reynoldsburg next week and the Pioneers will host Pickerington North.