As the Olentangy High School football team squandered chance after chance to take control of its Sept. 6 home game against Olentangy Liberty, the Braves' defense continually kept the door open.
After taking a 6-0 lead on its second possession, when senior quarterback Matt Kessler threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to junior Nick Durtschi, the Patriots had seven consecutive fruitless series.
Olentangy senior linebacker Kevin Sherry almost single-handedly stopped a 14-play, 48-yard drive at the end of the first half with two tackles to keep the Patriots outside the Braves' 35-yard line. Midway through the third quarter, sophomore defensive tackle Chris Crumb tripped up Kessler on third-and-4 at Olentangy's 14, and Liberty missed a field goal on the next play to keep the game tied at 6.
It was that sort of play that enabled the Braves to hang around. They forced overtime with two fourth-quarter touchdowns and won 26-23 on junior running back Anthony Golden's 1-yard score in the second overtime.
"Our backs were against the wall constantly," junior linebacker Jake Didion said. "Everyone is doing their assignment, filling gaps and flying to the ball. That's how we're getting it done."
The Braves, who defeated Canal Winchester 41-6 on Aug. 30, take a 2-0 record into their final non-league game Friday, Sept. 13, at Lexington.
"We did a good job of tackling (against Liberty)," Olentangy coach Mark Solis said. "You just have to be careful. You can't blitz too much. Just take everything you can get. They played very hard."
Crumb's 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter pulled Olentangy within 20-13, then junior defensive end Nate Hall's fumble recovery at the Patriots' 25 set up senior quarterback Noah Durst's game-tying 18-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver J.T. Grega.
Despite making contributions on both sides of the ball, Crumb prefers playing defense.
"I'm more of a defensive guy because I love the feeling of defense," he said. "Defense is all reaction and being able to react to something. Do your job and react."
Lexington improved to 1-1 with a 28-12 win over Shelby on Sept. 6. The Minutemen, who lost their opener to Ontario 44-43 in overtime, capitalized on five Whippets turnovers with a balanced offensive game.
Junior quarterback Trent Richwine completed nine of 15 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 61 yards and touchdowns of 1 and 9 yards on 17 carries. Sophomore Joey Vore had five catches for 34 yards and a touchdown, and a 12-yard interception return for a score.
At least part of the drive to Lexington will be familiar to Solis, who originally is from Ashland and whose wife, Julie, and two children -- Trevor, 12, and Rylee, 4 -- still are living in the Cleveland area. Julie is the girls basketball coach at Twinsburg but has said this will be her last season, after which the family plans to relocate to central Ohio.
Trevor was in attendance for the win over Liberty.
"They're the first people I think about when I walk off the field," Solis said. "It's been tough. But I'm so proud of these kids, to see them fight back the way they did. We had our backs up against the wall, and they responded the way I knew they could."