By Michael Rich
The song remained largely the same, though some of the musicians changed.
Running back Trent Davies and quarterback Alex Lando ran for two touchdowns each and Olentangy Liberty pulled away in the second half to beat district-rival Olentangy Orange 43-14 Friday in Powell to open the football season.
The Patriots (1-0) amassed 421 of their 457 yards on the ground led by Davies’ 193 yards on 25 carries. Lando also had a big day on the ground with 118 yards on 15 attempts.
“I think he did a nice job of hitting the hole,” Liberty coach Steve Hale said of Davies. “Now, we’ve got a couple of experienced offensive lineman doing a great job, and that really helps bring a young kid into the fold like that.”
Davies capped Liberty’s opening drive of the second half with a 20-yard touchdown run. The drive took just four plays after the Patriots started at the Orange 42, and turned an eight-point halftime lead into a 15-point lead.
“I give Trent all of the credit for the running game,” Lando said. “The runs that I had can’t go on without Trent because he’s taking all of the attention. And our o-line played insane on the running game.”
The Davies touchdown capped a sequence that completely turned the game in Liberty’s favor. Orange started the second half with the ball at its own 15, but two penalties put the ball back on the five and Orange went three and out.
“We’re just doing too many things to hurt ourselves,” Pioneers coach Zebb Schroeder said. “When you’re in a street fight against an OCC team, those little self-inflicted errors catch up with you.”
“Their backs are against the wall and we stopped them,” Hale said. “That changes the flow. Now they need a big play.”
The next Pioneers drive was stalled thanks to a sack by linebacker Kyle Akerman on third and 10 for a loss of eight yards, forcing another punt.
Davies then started the next drive with a 22-yard run to the Orange 43. Five plays later, Lando capped the drive with a five-yard scramble for the touchdown. He ran 13 yards two plays earlier to put Liberty within striking distance.
Lando also capped a near-10-minute drive with a 33-yard field goal to open the game.
After a three and out on Orange’s first possession, Lando found the end zone on a scramble from 20 yards out, and after a failed extra point, Liberty led 9-0.
It looked like the same-old, same-old for the Pioneers (0-1), but then J.D. Dayhuff ran 57 yards down to the Liberty 15-yard line on the next possession, and several plays later, Tyler Lichter cut it to 9-7 on a one-yard run.
Dayhuff led the Pioneers with 77 yards on the ground on six carries and went 10-for-14 through the air for 114 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s a kid who has tremendous leadership skills,” Schroeder said. “He studies the game, the kids really gravitate towards his energy and he can run it and throw it. As an offense, we’ve been able to really progress because of his ability to run with the ball and throw the ball.”
The Patriots shut out the Pioneers 38-0 last year.
“They wanted us,” Lando said about the first-half battle. “Give them all of the credit, they’re going to get a lot wins this year.”
After a Johnny Wiseman six-yard touchdown gave Liberty a nine-point lead again, the Pioneer offense ran a play-action and Dayhuff found Hunter Shepherd over the top for 34 yards to bring Orange back to within two points.
Shepherd led the Pioneers with four catches for 54 yards.
Davies capped the first-half scoring with a 63-yard run. He appeared to be stopped by a pile of defenders, but emerged and raced the final 50 yards unencumbered. Liberty led at the half 22-14 – a far cry from last year’s meeting in Lewis Center.
“Davies making that run changed the dynamic of the first half,” Hale said.
Nick Lind and Wiseman also scored touchdowns on the ground for the Patriots. Wiseman contributed 84 yards on the ground on 10 carries.
Liberty travels to its other district-rival Olentangy next Friday while Orange plays at Bishop Watterson.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.