DUBLIN — Led by a stifling defensive effort and just enough plays from their offense, Olentangy Berlin held on in the final minutes for a 10-7 win over host Dublin Scioto on Friday evening.
Quarterback Harrison Brewster was 12-for-25 passing for just 101 yards, but his lone touchdown pass to Aaron Nebraska midway through the second quarter proved to be the difference in the final score. Running back Mason Ziegler carried 15 times for 53 yards to lead the Bears’ rushing attack.
For the second week in a row, however, the night belonged to the Berlin defense, which was within three minutes of posting its second shutout in as many weeks. Kyle Jackowski led the way with seven tackles for the Bears, and Angelo Johnson added six tackles, all solo, in the winning effort.
“They’ve been outstanding,” Berlin head coach Mark Nori said of his defense following the game. “That’s now seven points allowed in two games. They’re keeping us in the games. They’ve done a great job, put a great game plan in week in and week out.”
Neither of the two teams could muster much offensively through most of the first half. A 36-field goal by Berlin’s Spencer Conrad accounted for the lone points of the opening quarter, and the lead remained at 3-0 until midway through the second quarter.
After taking over at their own 35-yard line, Brewster opened the Bears’ fifth drive of the half with consecutive completions to move the ball to midfield. With a new set of downs, Brewster made it three consecutive completions with an 18-yard pass to Josh Gavin, who made a nifty sliding grab at the Scioto 33.
The drive appeared to have stalled three plays later, however, as Mason Ziegler was hit for a loss on third down, sending Conrad out for a 50-yard field goal attempt. A critical offside penalty on Scioto prior to the snap shifted Nori’s decison, and Berlin was sure to make Scioto pay for the costly mistake.
Brewster found Nebraska for nine yards on fourth down to extend the drive, and just one play later, the two connected again for the game’s first touchdown.
The 19-yard scoring strike and Conrad’s extra point increased the Berlin lead to 10-0 with 6:13 remaining in the second quarter, and the Bears would maintain the lead heading into the halftime break.
Scioto (0-3) was held to just 88 yards of total offense in the first half in an abysmal showing, and for much of the second half, it didn’t appear more production was on the way. Still, Berlin struggled to deliver the final blow to put the game away, and the Scioto offense finally showed some life late in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by 10 with just over three minutes to play, Scioto quarterback Byson Arthur found Jerijah Moore for 48 yards, the longest play of the evening by either team, to move the Irish to Berlin’s 26-yard line. Five plays later, Arthur’s pass was hauled in by Ashton Wilson in the end zone to get the Irish on the scoreboard.
Ethan Shipps’ extra point was good, cutting Berlin’s lead to 10-7 with 2:21 to play.
Scioto lined up for an onside kick attempt on the ensuing kickoff, but Johnson secured the loose ball to maintain possession for Berlin.
Despite Scioto having just one timeout, Berlin was unable to run out the clock, and Scioto took over for one last-ditch effort with just 20 seconds remaining.
Arthur hit Moore for 20 yards to the Berlin 42, setting up a final heave to the end zone. Pressure by the Berlin defense forced the throw to go well short of the end zone, however, and Johnson’s tackle sealed the victory for the Bears.
While there may have been nothing pretty about the effort from his team, Nori said he was proud of the resiliency his team has shown through each of the first three weeks.
“We’ve been resilient all year,” Nori said. “We fought back against (Hilliard) Bradley (in week one), that was a loss. (Olentangy) Orange was a tight game. There’s nothing easy in this conference. Every game is a tough one, and if you’re not going to fight from the opening kickoff to the last play of the game, you’ll lose.”
With the win, Olentangy Berlin improves to 2-1 on the season. They will return to action next week when they host Olentangy Liberty on Friday for a district showdown.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.