Rarely do high school football coaches use injuries as an excuse, but if Olentangy Liberty's Steve Hale did, he would have plenty to complain about.

Rarely do high school football coaches use injuries as an excuse, but if Olentangy Liberty's Steve Hale did, he would have plenty to complain about.

Injuries definitely have hurt the Patriots, who are 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division heading into a game at Olentangy on Friday, Sept. 30.

"We've had some adversity and we've had some challenges," Hale said. "But we still want to see our guys go out and compete. We've certainly done that the last few years and there's no reason why we can't continue to improve each week."

The running game has been decimated with sophomore Daryian Davies having season-ending surgery for a torn foot ligament and senior Phil Osolinski nursing a sore ankle.

Osolinski did play in a 20-16 victory over Dublin Jerome on Sept. 23.

Also out for the season is senior lineman John McKay, who suffered a second concussion in the Aug. 26 opener against Dublin Coffman. He was the starting center and long snapper on special teams.

Lineman Luke Fleming, a two-way starter, has been day-to-day with an elbow injury. Junior lineman Zach Shank has spent plenty of time with trainers because of a concussion and is just returning to the lineup.

"Some of those guys are pretty big impact players for us," senior linebacker Grant Cartwright said. "But I think we're a deep team. We've never been about the individual. Just because one guy goes down doesn't mean someone else can't step up. I think the injuries have made us work harder as a team."

They have given quarterback Joey Longhino more opportunities in the spread offense.

The junior has completed 95 of 148 passes for 1,003 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He threw for 171 yards and three touchdowns against Jerome.

Longhino, who also is the team's leading rusher with 187 yards on 62 carries, is on pace to surpass the team record of more than 1,800 yards passing set last season by 2011 graduate Taylor Hudson.

The first-year starter is averaging 200.6 yards passing per game.

"We've thrown the ball more this year than we've ever thrown it and he's responded well," Hale said of Longhino. "We've been running the same stuff, so he knows it. He's doing a nice job finding his targets and picking out his receivers."

Longhino's top target has been senior A.J. Motika, who has caught 34 passes for 428 yards and six touchdowns.

The quarterback's performance helped Liberty beat Jerome for the first time in four tries. He threw the winning 3-yard touchdown pass to Bryson Wray with a little more than 5 minutes left.

The Patriots also had a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter.

"I think that win completely changed our entire team and momentum," Cartwright said. "Our attitude has never really been bad and I don't think we've ever looked at ourselves as a bad football team. I really believe we've got a great future ahead."