Orange finally clears Big Walnut hurdle
Brian Cross has won 216 games as a head coach, but in four tries with the Olentangy Orange High School football team, the Pioneers had never been able to crack Big Walnut.
That changed Oct. 19 when Orange defeated visiting Big Walnut 10-0 to improve to 5-4 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Capital Division.
The Golden Eagles had beaten the Pioneers 35-34 in 2011, 23-21 in 2010, 31-15 in 2009 and 28-7 in 2008.
"Our kids played extremely well in all three phases of the game and we were able to come out on top," said Cross, whose team closes the season Friday, Oct. 26, at home against Watkins Memorial. "I think we held them to 114 yards of total offense (46 yards rushing), and that's pretty impressive. Plus, we were able to rush for more than 200 yards, control the momentum and the time of possession in the game."
An interception by senior defensive back Josh Parker set up an 8-yard touchdown run by senior running back Larry Rode in the first quarter, and senior Mitch Hopkins kicked a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
Rode had 136 yards rushing on 28 carries and senior fullback Mike Forbes added 74 yards as the Pioneers had 214 of their 221 total yards on the ground.
Orange was 2-4 through six games, just as it was in 2010. That season, the Pioneers won their final four games to finish with a winning record.
They have that opportunity again after winning three consecutive games entering their season finale.
"(Finishing 6-4) is something we talked about when we were 2-4 and there were four games left," Cross said. "We told them to take things one game at a time and try to finish strong. We were able to do that two years ago and now we have a chance to do it again."
The Pioneers have played much of the season without senior quarterback Kofi Hill, who has an ankle injury. Hill started three games as a sophomore and all of last season. Senior Jacob Stier has stepped in to take control of the offense.
"Jacob Stier been steady for us, and he has done everything that we have asked of him," Cross said. "He goes out and doesn't make any major mistakes. He knows his role and has done a nice job of playing within himself."
And the running game has started to jell with Rode and Forbes leading the way.
"Larry Rode has gotten better each game, and he has done a great job of reading his blocks as well as improving his own blocking skills," Cross said. "He has run harder in each game and he has over 1,100 yards rushing this season.
"Mikey Forbes had been throwing blocks and running well ... and has close to 800 yards this season."
Braves returning to postseason
If computer estimates are correct, Olentangy is returning to the postseason for the first time since 2008, this time in Division I. But coach Ed Terwilliger isn't concerned about week 11, only the Braves' week 10 matchup at home against Delaware on Friday, Oct. 26.
"I don't pay attention to those things because we can only control what we do on Friday," said Terwilliger, whose team is 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Capital, one game behind New Albany. "I've been in the situation to where we were in (the playoffs going into the 10th game) and also when people said we had to win and a lot of other things had to happen before you get in. I can tell you, I'd rather be in the first situation, but you still have to go out there and play on Friday."
In 2008, the Braves lost to Sylvania Southview 28-14 in the first round of the Division II playoffs. They lost to Tiffin Columbian 21-7 in the opening round of the Division II playoffs in 2006.
Terwilliger said the hard work put in by the players during both the offseason and practice has created a winning formula.
"(Making the playoffs) shows that this group of kids has done what has been needed to play in week 11, which is the goal of every team," he said. "It's been a few years since we have been there, so getting there is rewarding in itself.
"But getting there now is great because (the school district) split for a second time in the year that we last made (the playoffs). Through all of that, the kids have done a great job of making sure that the program remained solid."
In a 23-7 win at Mount Vernon on Oct. 19, senior quarterback Andrew Horstman rushed for 192 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Senior fullback Luke Hartline had two 1-yard touchdown runs as the Braves rushed for 257 of their 321 total yards.
"Coaches always say that after the fifth game you either get better or worse. ... There's no staying the same," Terwilliger said. "We have been getting better, and we're getting closer to the playoffs. Now you come out to practice with extra incentive, extra emotion."
Patriots not happy with performance
Liberty gave unbeaten Dublin Coffman all it could handle in a 36-28 loss Oct. 19.
Coach Steve Hale wasn't satisfied.
"We play every year to win a league title and now we're not going to do that," said Hale, whose team is 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the OCC-Central entering its season finale Friday, Oct. 26, at Thomas Worthington. "We had turnovers that hurt us and weren't able to get it done."
Senior quarterback Joey Longhino completed 26 of 42 passes for 286 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Senior wide receiver Matt Muntean caught eight passes for 137 yards and junior running back Daryian Davies ran for 153 yards on 36 carries.