With turnaround complete, Orange is ready to roll


After a turnaround year that saw a first playoff appearance and a first win over rival Olentangy in his three seasons at the helm, Olentangy Orange football coach Zebb Schroeder has a lot to build on for the upcoming season.

The Pioneers made the playoffs for the third time in school history (first since 2011) and earned their second-ever win over Olentangy.

“I think that (win) was a really big pivot point in our season,” Schroeder said. “In the early going, we lost a couple of nail-bitters … that game changed the mentality (and) the expectation.”

Orange came within a touchdown of knocking off its other rival, Olentangy Liberty, on two different occasions last season, falling 20-13 in double overtime in Week 9 and 24-17 in the first round of the playoffs.

“I think our kids went toe to toe with some of the best teams in Central Ohio last year and sometimes we were successful and other times we didn’t quite get it done in the end,” Schroeder said. “I think that was a wake-up call … we’ve kind of emerged to get to that level of football.”

The Pioneers finished the season with a winning record for the first time since 2012 to mark the end of Schroeder’s rebuilding project.

No doubt about it – the Pioneers have arrived.

Part of the reason for Orange’s arrival is junior defensive end Zach Harrison. Harrison has been offered by at least 14 Division-I colleges according to a couple of recruiting sites and by as many as 17 according to another.

“I think part of what makes him special is what he does from the neck up,” Schroeder said. “One of our core beliefs is if you want to be successful, you have to obsess over the fundamentals … he’s a kid that obsesses over his trade. He studies it, he studies other people (and) he’s worked on it in the offseason.

“When you take a kid who has those God-given abilities and those special talents and couple that with (the fact) he loves the skills and the fundamentals of the position and he loves Orange, he loves his teammates … it’s just a great situation for our defense and our program.”

Harrison is not alone. The Pioneers return a star-studded nucleus that helped hold opponents to 17.2 points per game and 265.4 yards per game last season.

“We believe that you win by controlling the ball and playing great defense,” Schroeder said. “We like to say (the defense) gets first choice – we want to make sure that the defense has the guys they need.”

The linebacker unit is particularly strong. Senior middle linebacker Bryce Houston, last year’s leading tackler, will be flanked by Zane Fisher (senior) and Jack Neer (seniors). Houston has committed to Ohio University.

“Every year, (Houston) has made progress and I think he’s got a chance to be one of the really, really great linebackers in the state of Ohio. I believe that,” Schroeder said.

Neer is the newcomer to the unit after spending last season on offense.

Dominic Davis (junior) and Dylan Buchanan (junior) will see time at linebacker as well. Jack Applegate (senior) and Alex Alasti (senior) provide depth at that position, but will spend most of their time on offense.

Jayden Rodgers (senior), who led the team in pass breakups returns at cornerback, and Joel Sarpong (senior), Thomas Sargent (senior) and Robbie Dayhuff (junior) will all see time on the edge as well.

Jimmy Sensibaugh (senior), who was third on the team in tackles last year, returns for his third year as a starter at safety. Garrett Runyon (senior) moves back to safety after starting as a corner.

Brandon Ransom (senior) and Brian Watson (senior) provide depth at safety.

Schroeder sees Jack Houston (senior), Brant Kightlinger (junior), Jadon Matthews (junior), Kyle Sessaman (junior), Zach Hill (sophomore) and Nate Gadrim (senior) all spending time on the defensive line.

Gadrim will spend the majority of his time on offense, giving Schroeder a luxury he hadn’t had in years past. His bigs will mostly play one way.

This group is also interchangeable for the most part, which is another luxury. Schroeder will play groups based on matchups.

The Pioneers have to replace a lot of production on offense. Quarterback J.D. Dayhuff graduated having led Orange in passing and rushing last season.

“J.D. is a lot to replace,” Schroeder said. “He threw the ball efficiently and he was kind of like a tailback. There were so many things for us that he did outside of just throwing the ball from the quarterback position.”

Graham Starn (senior) returns in the backfield having emerged in the middle of last season as a threat only to see his season end with an injury in Week 6.

Applegate returns in the backfield as well, having picked up where Starn left off to finish second on the team in rushing and rushing touchdowns behind J.D. Dayhuff.

“Hopefully our quarterback doesn’t have to be our leading rusher this year,” Schroeder said. “We have two senior tailbacks that are good football players, and if they both stay healthy, they’re going to have great seasons for us.”

Schroeder views J.D. Dayhuff as a big loss, no doubt, but his replacement, Luke Schmeling, is a senior who has spent a couple of seasons on the varsity roster and should plug into the position nicely.

“I don’t really consider him a new starter,” Schroeder said. “He started multiple games for us at wide receiver last year – so, he’s got varsity experience. It will be new for him to play quarterback on Friday night, but I’m not worried … he’ll be ready for this.”

Robbie Dayhuff and Spencer Hawkins (sophomore) will back Schmeling up at quarterback.

Manny Anderson (senior), Kofi Ansah-Tutu (senior) and Ryan Forbes (senior) lead the way out wide.

Schroeder called Jordan Shelton (senior) his swiss-army knife because Shelton will spend time out wide, in the backfield and at tight end.

Rodgers could pitch in as a slot and Harrison and Hill will see time at tight end.

Gadrim (left tackle), Jake Zinn (senior/center) and Nathan Parker (senior/right guard) each return and Ryan Duffy (junior/right tackle) and Zach Stevenson (junior/left guard) fill out the line. Jeff Sullivan (sophomore/tackle) will see time as well.

Luke Long (senior) and Alasti round out the backfield at fullback, but each could see time on the offensive line if needed.

On special teams, Schmeling will punt, Grant Simon (senior) takes over the place-kicking duties full time and Trent Grotelueschen (senior) will be the long-snapper.

“This will be far and away the biggest and strongest offensive line we’ve ever had (at Orange),” Schroeder said. “All five guys have spent three or four years in the weight program. Hopefully that allows them to have an edge … a little more confidence.”

The Pioneers face the exact same schedule as last season with the sites flipped. Highlights include trips to county-rival Big Walnut (Sept. 15), district-rival Olentangy (Oct. 6) and a home-finale against district-rival Liberty (Oct. 20).

Orange opens at Worthington Kilbourne Aug. 25, looking to avenge a 29-28 overtime loss in last season’s opener, which was the second time in as many years the Wolves won in the extra frame.

The Pioneers open the home schedule looking to avenge a 14-7 loss to Dublin Jerome in Week 3 last season. The Celtics visit Sept. 8.

Orange will be featured on Thursday night for the second season in a row at home against Westerville Central Oct. 12.

Newark (Sept. 22) and Westerville North (Sept. 29) round out the home slate and Bishop Watterson (Sept. 1) and Westerville South (Oct. 27) are road games this season.

All of Orange’s games will have a 7 p.m. kickoff.

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The 2017 Olentangy Orange varsity football team.
https://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2017/08/web1_oofootball.jpgThe 2017 Olentangy Orange varsity football team. HR Imaging Partners
Pioneers look to build on last season’s success

By Michael Rich

For the Gazette

ADKINS, ETHAN 11 26 WR/DB V 6’0 161

ALASTI, ALEX 12 45 FB/LB V 5’9 179

ALMOND, JACK 10 44 FB/LB V 5’10 170

ANDERSON, MANNY 12 6 WR/DB V 6’4 195

ANGELIS, WILL 11 82 TE/LB V 6’0 160

ANSAH-TUTU, KOFI 12 81 WR/LB V 6’2 196

APPLEGATE, JACK 12 22 RB/LB V 5’11 205

BAISDEN, CAMERON 11 31 WR/DB V 6’0 174

BUCHANAN, DYLAN 11 37 TE/LB V 5’10 176

CUMMINGS, JULIAN 11 78 OL/DL V 5’11 267

DAVIDSON, TANNER 10 70 OL/DL V 6’0 212

DAVIS, DOMINIC 11 20 RB/LB V 6’0 165

DAYHUFF, ROBBIE 11 8 QB/DB V 6’1 165

DUFFY, RYAN 11 75 OL/DL V 6’3 298

DUNHAM, REECE 10 24 WR/DB V 5’9 120

DUNN, RYAN 11 7 WR/DB V 6’2 188

ENDERS, IAN 10 80 WR/DB V 6’0 161

FAULKNER, MASON 11 60 OL/LB V 5’11 189

FENTON, JACK 10 19 RB/LB V 5’10 175

FISHER, ZANE 12 33 TE/LB V 6’2 195

FORBES, RYAN 12 25 WR/DB V 5’9 160

FRENCH, CALEB 11 49 WR/DB V 5’10 135

GADRIM, NATE 12 66 OL/DL V 6’5 245

GIFFORD, MITCHELL 11 10 TE/LB V 6’0 176

GROTELUESCHEN, TRENT 12 55 LS V 6’0 218

HALVERSON, COOPER 10 46 WR/DB V 6’0 162

HARRISON, ZACH 11 13 TE/DE V 6’6 245

HAWKINS, SPENCER 10 12 QB/DB V 6’2 166

HILL, ZACH 10 88 TE/DE V 6’2 205

HOUSTON, BRYCE 12 42 FB/LB V 6’0 212

HOUSTON, JACK 12 47 FB/DL V 5’11 190

KIGHTLINGER, BRANT 11 52 OL/DL V 6’3 223

LARIVEE, CHASE 11 85 WR/DB V 6’0 148

LATTIG, ZANE 10 16 WR/DB V 6’2 167

LEIST, EVAN 10 34 FB/LB V 5’11 146

LONG, LUKE 12 54 FB/DL V 5’9

LOPEZ, ALEX 10 23 FB/LB V 5’11

MATHENA, CONNOR 10 57 OL/DL V 6’0

MATTHEWS, JADON 11 18 TE/DL V 6’0

MILLER, NATE 10 58 OL/DL V 6’4

MITCHELL, KIEGAN 12 39 WR/DB V 6’0

MOMBURG, MATT 10 36 WR/DB V 5’9

MUTAI, CARDAN 10 51 OL/DL V 6’0

NAGY, JOEY 10 59 OL/DL V 5’11

NEER, JACK 12 15 WR/LB V 6’2

NEMEC, RUSSEL 10 43 WR/DB V 5’9

PACK, JARED 10 79 OL/DL V 6’5

PARKER, NATHAN 12 50 OL/DL V 6’0

PHILLIPS, CHRISTIAN 11 32 RB/LB V 5’9

RANSOM, BRANDON 12 29 RB/DB V 6’0

ROBERTS, MARK 11 21 RB/LB V 6’0

RODGERS, JAYDEN 12 3 WR/DB V 6’0

RUNYON, GARRETT 12 40 WR/DB V 6’0

RUNYON, GRIFFIN 10 9 WR/DB V 5’11

SARGENT, THOMAS 12 11 WR/DB V 6’0

SARPONG, JOEL 12 4 WR/DB V 6’0

SCHMELING, LUKE 12 5 QB/DB V 6’1

SENSIBAUGH, JIMMY 12 17 WR/DB V 6’0

SESSAMEN, KYLE 11 77 OL/DL V 6’3

SHELTON, JORDAN 12 14 WR/DB V 6’3

SIMON, GRANT 12 86 PK V 6’0

SNYDER, BRAD 11 35 RB/DB V 5’11

STARN, GRAHAM 12 2 RB/DB V 5’11

STEVENSON, ZACH 11 76 OL/DL V 6’3

STEWART, MAX 10 48 WR/DB V 5’10

SULLIVAN, JEFF 10 68 OL/DL V 6’4

TALUKDER, NAJIB 10 73 OL/DL V 6’3

TOWNSEND, DYLAN 10 27 TE/LB V 5’11

VANCHIERI, JAKE 10 28 RB/LB V 6’0

WATSON, BRIAN 12 30 RB/DB V 5’9

WILDER, KRIS 10 38 WR/DB V 5’9

WRIGHT, CHRISTIAN 11 84 WR/DB V 6’3

WYNE, SAM 10 87 WR/DB V 6’3

ZECH, ERIC 12 83 P/PK V 5’8

ZINN, JAKE 12 72 OL/DL V 6’3

Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy and contact him at mrichnotwealthy@gmail.com.