By Michael Rich
Olentangy’s goal all week was to go 1-0, and Jacob Bell allowed it to achieve that goal with a 52-yard field goal off the left upright and through with no time left.
“That was the last thing I told that unit — that extra point (and) field goal unit, ‘just be 1-0 on this play,’” Olentangy coach Mark Solis said. “We’ve worked on it a lot in practice and that’s a great example of why we practice that situation.”
Bell’s field goal sent third-seeded Olentangy past sixth-seeded Toledo Whitmer 24-21 on a chilly Saturday night at Frost-Kalnow Stadium in Tiffin.
“I just knew it was going to come down to our quarterback (Deeb Haber) making a big play or me making that kick,” Bell said. “(Solis) told me that he knew I had it in me the whole time. He knows that I can make those kicks. He had faith in me and I thank him for having faith in me.”
Solis had no doubt in his mind Bell was going to get his shot.
“I thought that was what it would come down to,” Solis said. “I was playing for a field goal — that was my whole mindset.”
The field goal punctuated what was a wild, but bumpy ride up to that point.
Obi Anunike caught a backward pass from Haber and then fired to an open Jacob O’Donnell over the top from 34 yards out on fourth-and-9 to knot the game 21-21 with 7:18 remaining. Haber completed a 32-yard pass to Anunike to set up the play, but had thrown two incomplete passes to get to fourth down.
The Panthers responded with a 22-yard completion from quarterback Chase Bodeman to receiver Zach Smith, followed by a Malik Moore 44-yard run to set up first and goal at the six-yard line. Deonta Mack made a shoestring tackle to prevent Moore from scoring on the play.
Olentangy (11-1) followed by stopping Whitmer (9-3) on three straight plays from the one-yard line, which culminated in a stop of Bodeman for no gain on fourth down.
“We called the play,” Solis said. “It’s going to be a QB-trail … and sure enough that’s what they ran. We had two guys in that B-hole that stuffed him.”
“I had faith in our defense,” lineman Chris Crumb said. “We had a good game plan. Our D-line filled in and our linebackers crashed … it was the perfect defense right there.”
Jimmy Elmurr led a stout Olentangy defense with nine tackles and Seth O’Neal and Crumb added 8.5 each. Crumb also had four tackles-for-loss and two sacks.
All that was left was 99 yards and 3:55 on the clock for Olentangy. O’Neal made a sliding catch over the shoulder for 22 yards to get the ball to the Whitmer 35-yard line.
Haber also completed a third-down pass to receiver Derrick Wyche for 12 yards and Ali Iverson converted a third-and-3 situation with a four-yard run.
Haber finished 17-for-28 for 188 yards and Anunike had 10 catches for 76 yards. He also went 1-for-2 passing for 34 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Iverson led Olentangy with 68 yards rushing on seven carries and a touchdown.
Olentangy had a chance to take the lead before the half with five seconds left, but Haber’s pass fell incomplete as time expired.
“I thought we left some points off the board,” Solis said. “I’m an aggressive play-caller. I thought if we couldn’t get a touchdown before the half, we could at least have one or two seconds to kick the field goal.”
Moore led Whitmer (9-3) with 84 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown and Larry Patterson rushed for 83 yards.
Bodeman added 54 yards on the ground and two touchdowns and went 14-for-22 for 178 yards and two interceptions.
Olentangy faces second-seeded Stow-Munroe Falls, which defeated seventh-seeded Solon 24-15, in Saturday’s third round to be played at Mansfield Senior High School at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.