The Olentangy Orange football team has been white-knuckling it for three games … until solid defense and special teams let the Pioneers take it to visiting Big Walnut 47-0 Friday night in non-league play.
Orange (2-2) scored on all six possessions en route to a 37-0 lead at halftime, five of which started in BW territory. Meanwhile, all seven of kicker Joe Metcalf’s first-half kickoffs were touchbacks, forcing the Eagles to start at their own 20.
“That’s part of our plan to win is to start the game kicking the ball into the end zone and sending the defense out there trying to get three-and-out,” Pioneers coach Zebb Schroeder said. “We have an emphasis on special teams and winning the money down on third down, and we were able to do that.”
It was a welcomed performance for the Pioneers after losing two of their first three games this season. Orange had been outscored by its opposition by one point coming into the game.
“Hats off to our kids – they played hard … they played smart and they really understood the game plan,” Schroeder said. “They watched a lot of film this week … they were really just into it. We played a clean game.”
Metcalf hit a 20-yard field goal to cap an 11-play drive that started at the BW 49 to give Orange a 3-0 lead with 6:56 left in the first quarter.
J.D. Dayhuff scored from a yard out on the next possession after the Pioneers started at the BW 25 when Christian Albertini and Jimmy Sensibaugh snuffed out a fake punt. Orange led 10-0 at the end of the first.
Dayhuff scored on a scramble from 11 yards out on the next possession after it began at the BW 20. Trevor Collins blocked the BW punt attempt and Jayden Rodgers recovered.
Graham Starn capped an 11-play, 79-yard drive with a two-yard run with 7:23 left in the half. It was the only drive of the first half that Orange had to start in its own territory. Starn tallied 40 yards rushing for the Pioneers.
Dayhuff scored his third rushing touchdown on a 1-yard run that capped a drive that started at the BW 27 after a fumbled snap on a punt attempt.
Dayhuff hooked up with Rodgers for a 23-yard touchdown, which was set up by a T.J. Coates fumble recovery at the BW 32.
“Our defense created turnovers, our special teams got the blocked kick and our defense was lights out,” Dayhuff said. “Hats off to them, they won the game for us.”
It was a strong comeback performance out of the senior quarterback, who threw four interceptions in last week’s loss at Dublin Jerome.
“J.D. is a mature young man … he’s a leader,” Schroeder said. “I didn’t have to worry about him one bit in terms of his mindset rebounding from that. I worry about him because he’s a kid, but I didn’t worry about it because of the type of kid he is … the work ethic and mental toughness that he has.”
He finished with a team-high 72 yards rushing and three touchdowns and 62 yards passing and another score.
“I really didn’t do much, our offensive line just blocked really well,” Dayhuff said.
Metcalf drilled a 46-yard field goal to push the lead to 40-0 with 5:18 left in the third quarter after the teams exchanged fumbles to start the second half.
Jack Applegate scored on a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring for the Pioneers. He finished with 52 yards for the game.
David Hunt led the Eagles with 83 yards rushing, including 45 on their final drive. Luke Apple recovered a fumble on defense for BW (0-4).
Orange’s Braydon Davis recovered a fumble at the 7 to end BW’s scoring bid.
Steven Collins also had a fumble recovery for the Pioneers in the second half. Collins led the team with 33 yards receiving. Bryce Houston led the defense with 4.5 tackles.
“They’re a good program … they’re a tough out,” Schroeder said. “They play good run defense, they hit hard, they run to the football … they do all the little things. You don’t get these (kinds of wins) often because they are a good program.”
Orange had only won two of the previous eight meetings against BW coming in, and both were by 10 points or fewer, including a 21-14 victory last season at home.
Both the Pioneers and the Eagles continue non-league play next Friday night at 7:30. BW hosts Westerville South and Orange travels to Newark.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.