Shamrocks humble Braves, 35-0

By Paul Batterson - For the Gazette

Near the end of his post-game huddle with the Olentangy High School football team, coach Mark Solis gestured emphatically to the glowing lights of the scoreboard at Dublin Coffman:

Shamrocks 35, Olentangy 0.

“We haven’t experienced too many of those,” said Solis, whose team hadn’t lost by 35 points since a 48-13 loss to Cincinnati La Salle in a Division II state semifinal in 2014 and hadn’t been shut out since a 33-0 loss to Worthington Kilbourne on Oct. 18. “(I told them) ‘I want you to remember what this feels like to make sure you never feel this way again.’ This is going to determine our effort in practice, in the weight room, and it’s going to make us better.”

After rallying from a 27-point deficit to defeat Reynoldsburg 52-51 on Sept. 8, the Braves returned to earth with a decided thud against the Shamrocks. Olentangy, which had gone into the game ranked first in the unofficial Division I Region 2 computer rankings on, fell to 3-1 overall; the Shamrocks improved to 3-1 with the win.

The game was the first meeting between the two schools since Coffman’s 22-12 win over the Braves in 1998. After the loss, Olentangy may want to wait another 18 years to play the Shamrocks again.

Olentangy came into the game averaging 39.3 points a game, but didn’t pick up a first down until there was 6:31 remaining in the first quarter. It didn’t cross the 50 until the third quarter. Coffman intercepted Braves quarterback Connor Haag three times, including once in the end zone with 2:52 left in the third quarter.

“You can’t turn the ball over like we did tonight,” Solis said. “They had something to do with that. We had something to do with that. We need to watch the tape and learn from it.”

Offensively, Shamrocks quarterback Drew Hodgson completed 12 of 20 passes for 272 yards and four touchdowns. The Braves had a hard time slowing down 6-foot-4, 205-pound receiver Caleb Stoneburner, who hauled in six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. The Shamrocks were able to capitalize on Olentangy miscues in the first quarter. Coffman safety Jack Hamilton stepped in front of Haag’s pass with 9:16 left in the first quarter. On the ensuing play, Hodgson found a wide-open Stoneburner for a 78-yard touchdown for the Rocks’ first score.

Less than four minutes later, the Shamrocks forced the Braves into a three and out and punter Josh Petrone recovered a bad snap, but shanked a two-yard punt that set up Coffman at the Braves 26. A play later, running back Gavin Sturdivant broke free on a 26-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.

Stoneburner added his second touchdown, hauling in a 15-yard pass from Hodgson on a 3rd-and-15 with 43 seconds left to make it 21-0 at the half.

“Stoneburner is a tough match up,” Solis said. “He’s got great hand-eye coordination and great ball skills. He locates the ball really well. As big as he is, it’s tough when you’re guarding him with a 5-9 guy.”

Unfortunately for the Braves, Hodgson found other targets, hooking up with Chris Mollica for a 42-yard touchdown with 7:56 left in the third quarter and then finding Casey Kirk for a 65-yard strike with less than seven minutes remaining in the game.

“We did a poor job of planning and a poor job of coaching. That’s on me. I take full responsibility,” Solis said. “That was a good, thorough butt pasting. Most importantly, we need to control the next thing we can control … and that’s practice on Saturday and Monday.”

By Paul Batterson

For the Gazette