Olentangy Liberty High School senior wide receiver Cameron Whitner took one last look around the disappearing crowd at Columbus Crew Stadium last Friday and smiled.

The grin said it all. Whitner caught touchdown passes of 80 and 51 yards to lift the Patriots to a 21-16 victory over Olentangy in the first meeting of the two schools.

"That was a big lift," said Whitner, whose team improved to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division as the Braves fell to 5-1 and 2-1. "This is going to carry us the rest of the season. Tonight
was like a playoff game."

And in a way, it was for the Patriots, who needed a victory to keep in the running for a fifth consecutive playoff appearance. Liberty coach Steve Hale opened the game by attempting an onside kick,
which failed, to show his team was going to pull out all the stops in this key contest.

"I didn't know if I was going to like this (atmosphere of playing at Crew Stadium) or not, but now I'd like to do this at least once a year because it prepares you for the postseason," said Hale, a former
Olentangy assistant coach. "When you get to the playoffs, it can shock some players when you're in a situation where every down counts."

Olentangy has won its first five games by making big plays but against the Patriots couldn't get into the flow offensively. Trailing 21-9, the Braves seemed to be en route to another a comeback when
strong safety Aaron Gutentag scooped up an Allen Eggleston fumble. The Braves got inside the Patriot 25 but Tyler Specht picked off quarterback Justin Johnson.

Olentangy scored with 28.2 seconds left on Johnson's 1-yard run but kicker Ryan DiSabato's onside kick attempt sailed out of bounds.

"Give credit where credit is due," Olentangy coach Ed Terwilliger said. "Steve and his coaching staff did a great job of getting their ready for what we do. They knew what our best plays were and
defended them well. Their defensive line did an excellent job. We weren't ever able to get any rhythm."

Two big plays were what the Patriots needed to lead at the half.

Quarterback Zach Michael found Whitner at midfield and after an Olentangy defender slipped, Whitner, a sprinter for the track team, took it the rest of the way.

Olentangy didn't score on its first two drives inside the Patriots' 20. Ryan DiSabato missed a 35-yard field goal, and quarterback Justin Johnson was intercepted by Clay Lust at the 12-yard line.

After the Braves cut Liberty's lead to 14-9 on DiSabato's 29-yard field goal, Whitner ran a similar route with the same result. With 10:18 left, Whitner caught a 51-yard touchdown pass for a 21-9 lead.

"Usually we're getting big plays out of Cameron on special teams, but tonight we were getting them as a receiver. Those were phenomenal catches. There was no guarantee he was going to get the ball, but we can name a lot of other guys who came up with big plays."

Olentangy put together an 11-play, 55-yard drive for a touchdown with 19.5 seconds left in the half. Johnson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, but DiSabato's extra point was blocked.

OLENTANGY 0 6 3 7 - 16
LIBERTY 7 0 7 7 - 21
L-Whitner 80 pass from Michael (Henderly kick)
O-Johnson 1 run (kick failed)
L-Michael 3 run (Henderly kick)
O-DiSabato 29 FG
L-Whitner 51 pass from Michael (Henderly kick)
O-Johnson 1 run (DiSabato kick)