By Michael Rich
Olentangy defensive lineman Chris Crumb doesn’t need to dig deep for motivation. He finds it in his quest for perfection.
Every single time we mess up, that’s motivation,” he said. “Motivation is everywhere when you look for it.”
Crumb should be able to find plenty of motivation in Olentangy’s second-round opponent, Toledo Whitmer, which the Braves play in the Division I playoffs at Frost-Kalnow Stadium in Tiffin Saturday night.
“The bottom line is that it’s week 12, the playoffs, and everybody’s good now,” Olentangy coach Mark Solis said. “We won (in the first round) — that’s all that matters. Our whole mantra this week is being 1-0 in everything we do.”
Olentangy (10-1) is coming off a 31-21 win over Elyria in the first round, a game in which the Pioneers were able to control the line of scrimmage at times on their way to 376 yards of total offense.
“We got some issues that we’ve got to fix, definitely,” Crumb said. “We got tired — (Elyria) definitely got the better of us. They came out to play … they were ready, they were going to grind it out.”
It was a departure from the stout defense that Olentangy had played in the final three games of the regular season, when it gave up just seven points and 197 total yards.
“I said it in preseason, I’ll say it now, we’ve got a nasty defense,” Crumb said. “In the preseason, I talked about how, if you’re not looking, we’ll take your head off. Once we get going — start getting those big hits — it just adds to the fire.”
Next up is Whitmer (9-2), which finished second in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
The Panthers, who are the sixth seed in Region 1, feature an offense that has put up big numbers.
They have scored 40 or more points in each of their last six games and average 408 yards per game this season, including 239 on the ground.
“(Whitmer) is pretty athletic, pretty big, strong and physical … they kind of remind me of Pickerington North, who we played earlier in the year,” Solis said. “They’re that kind of team. They’re certainly a good football team, there’s no doubt about that.”
Whitmer features a dual-threat quarterback, senior Chase Bodeman, who has thrown for 1,811 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for another 887 yards and 10 scores.
“He’s a guy that certainly wants to run the ball, more than he would like to pass it — that’s what I see,” Solis said. “He runs well. Our goal is to get pressure on him this week and hopefully force him into some turnovers.”
As if Bodeman wasn’t a big enough threat on the ground, the Panthers have two backs that have rushed for more than 600 yards, including top rusher Malik Moore, a junior, with 976 yards and 14 touchdowns. Junior running back Larry Patterson has 647 yards and eight scores.
“(Moore) is good, there’s no doubt about it,” Solis said. “If we control the line of scrimmage and don’t give him running lanes, hopefully we can just make him average. (Patterson) is not as fast, not as shifty, but he’s good too. We have our work cut out for us.”
All three rushed for more than 100 yards in Whitmer’s 55-27 win over Canton McKinley in the first round. Moore ran for 164 yards on 14 carries, Bodeman rushed 12 times for 151 yards and Patterson added 109 on 20 attempts.
Bodeman’s top target in the passing game is senior receiver Zach Smith, who has 820 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Panthers defense hasn’t put up the kind of numbers that Olentangy’s has, holding opponents under 20 points just twice this season.
They give up an average of 321 yards and 22.6 points per game, which included 400 yards, including 308 on the ground, against McKinley.
Saturday’s winner will face the winner of second-seeded Stow-Munroe Falls and seventh-seeded Solon in the regional final round next Saturday at 7 p.m. at a site to be announced.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.