It was deja-vu all over again between Olentangy and Toledo Whitmer.
Jasean Rader’s 10-yard touchdown reception with nine-seconds left capped a wild final minute at Tiffin’s Frost-Kalnow Stadium. Rader had two touchdown receptions, a team-high 46 yards rushing and 128 yards on four kick returns, making big play after big play after big play to lead the top-seeded Panthers (12-0) to a 32-29 win over Olentangy in a Divison I regional semifinal.
“Our kicking game reared its ugly head again,” Olentangy coach Mark Solis said. “In this stage in the game when you’ve got to be solid in all three phases … we’re really good in everything except kickoff. We were awful and I am very upset about that.”
Whitmer’s Riley Keller found Patrick Mappe, who led the Panthers with 134 yards receiving and a touchdown on four catches, on the right sideline for a 42-yard pass play to set up Rader’s go-ahead score.
It came after Olentangy QB Riley Bruening fed a wide-open Ian Drummond over the middle for a 47-yard touchdown on a 4th-and-1 play with 52 seconds left.
“I thought we scored too quick … I was kind of hoping he’d trip and fall,” Solis chuckled. “It was a play that we installed this week and used it at the perfect time.”
Friday’s thriller was a rematch of a regional semifinal in 2015 that was also decided in the final minute. Olentangy’s Jacob Bell hit a 52-yard field goal off the left upright as time expired to give Olentangy a 24-21 win on that night.
That play was set up by a defensive stand inside the 5 in the final minute.
Olentangy (8-4) was not as fortunate this time.
Riley Bruening, Josh Petrone and Ali Iverson carried Olentangy. Petrone kicked three field goals, including a go-ahead 33-yarder in the third quarter to give Olentangy the lead and a 34-yarder in the fourth to extend it to six.
Rader caught his first touchdown pass — a 7-yard pass play with 3:02 left in the fourth — to give Whitmer a 24-23 lead.
Bruening’s two rushing touchdowns came in the second quarter to help Olentangy build a 17-3 lead.
Sam Stickels scored on an 8-yard run with 42 seconds left before the break to cut Whitmer’s deficit to seven and Mappe broke free on a 57-yard pass from Keller in the third quarter to tie it up.
Iverson led Olentangy with 111 yards on the ground and Bruening threw for 225 yards and added 35 on the ground.
“We had a good season,” Solis said. “We have a lot to celebrate and that’s what I’m going to look at – all the positives. (The kids) learned a lot of life lessons that are going to serve them later in life. That’s what’s great about this game.”
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.