Braves move on after first defeat
One of the Olentangy High School football team's goals -- an undefeated season -- has disappeared, but the rest remain very much in play.
The Braves suffered their first loss Oct. 11, falling to OCC-Capital Division rival New Albany 38-21 to drop to 6-1 overall and 3-1 in the league.
While the Braves' playoff hopes in Division II, Region 5 took what they hope is a temporary hit, their hopes for a league title are still alive entering a Friday, Oct. 18, matchup at league co-leader Worthington Kilbourne.
"I told the kids a loss like that is supposed to sting for a little while, but only for a little while," coach Mark Solis said. "We have another formidable challenge this week. All of our goals are still in front of us. There's no time to sulk now."
New Albany's defense held Olentangy largely in check, intercepting sophomore quarterback Deeb Haber twice and recovering two fumbles, including one returned 80 yards for a touchdown by O.B. Oppong. Haber was 30-for-49 passing for 286 yards, and Olentangy scored two touchdowns in the final 3 minutes, 15 seconds against New Albany's second-team defense.
Oppong's fumble return came late in the first half at New Albany's 18-yard line with the Braves trailing 7-0.
"That was a huge swing," Solis said. "I don't remember where I saw the statistic, but when you have a blocked kick, blocked punt for a touchdown or fumble return for a touchdown (against you), you lose the game something like 90 percent of the time."
Solis and New Albany coach Pat Samanich each credited the Eagles' defense as another difference-maker. Olentangy rushed for 101 yards, less than half of its 216 yards average.
"We blitzed just enough, stayed back just enough and mixed up our coverages just enough," Samanich said. "Their quarterback is a sophomore and he looks like a senior. Look out for these guys. They're in the region and we anticipate seeing them again. That's a playoff-type team."
In a 49-16 victory over Franklin Heights on Oct. 11, Kilbourne took control in the first half on senior cornerback Chandler Bridges' 89-yard interception return for a touchdown and three touchdown passes from junior quarterback Griffin Dahn. Junior running back Bobby Austria ran for two scores and the Wolves rolled up 234 of their 403 total yards on the ground.
"We've been running the ball so well that I expect (Olentangy) to bring more guys into the box," Kilbourne coach Vince Trombetti said. "We've got to be able to keep them honest and throw the ball some."
Trombetti employs a 4-3 defense that has allowed 12.7 points per game while the offense scores 36.6. Olentangy is averaging 36.4 and giving up 16.6.