Olentangy High School football coach Mark Solis is hoping for good news on and off the field Friday, Nov. 1.
The Braves end their regular season with a visit to OCC-Capital Division rival Delaware, and with considerable help could sneak into the Division II, Region 5 playoffs. The top eight teams qualify, and Olentangy was projected to be 13th in this week's computer ratings.
"We know we need a lot of help and we can't control what anybody else does, so we just have to perform at a high level," said Solis, whose team ended a two-game losing streak by defeating Mount Vernon 38-27 on Oct. 25, improving to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the league. "We responded well to adversity last week, which was something we hadn't done the previous two weeks."
Olentangy bounced back from an early 14-0 deficit against Mount Vernon. Yellow Jackets running back J.D. Orr scored two of his three touchdowns within the first three minutes of the game, but the Braves turned the game around with 24 unanswered points and the defense held Mount Vernon to two yards rushing in the second half.
Fullback Chris Crumb, running backs Anthony Golden, Hayden Hunter and Maleke Mitchell and quarterback Deeb Haber each had rushing touchdowns for the Braves, who amassed 262 of their 498 total yards on the ground. Right guard Quinton Gallion also returned after missing the first eight games with a foot injury.
"They are an excellent team and well-coached," Delaware coach Zebb Schroeder said. "They will line up in almost everything offensively and take advantage of what the defense allows. They play fast and get a lot of plays off. They will test you on the perimeter and inside or with counters. They can hit you from a lot of angles."
A victory would give Delaware its first winning season since 2009. The Pacers assured themselves at least a .500 record with a 41-6 win at Franklin Heights on Oct. 25 and are 5-4 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Capital.
Senior quarterback Jante Wright rushed for 94 yards and touchdowns of 19 and 49 yards and threw a 48-yard scoring pass to senior Caleb Howell to lead Delaware, which allowed the Falcons' only points in the fourth quarter.
Olentangy is 7-3 in its past 10 games against Delaware, but the teams have split their previous four meetings.
Patriots, Cardinals seek to finish .500
Liberty and Thomas Worthington both recognize their regular-season finale Friday, Nov. 1, has importance for their programs.
"It may not be a marquee game or have a lot of meaning to anyone else, but it is a big game for us," Thomas coach Scott Gordon said. "We're playing for a lot, not just pride. We're playing to win to give us a springboard into the offseason. We're both 4-5 and there is a big difference between a losing season and a non-losing season."
The Patriots, who are coming off a 24-12 loss to Dublin Coffman on Oct. 25, have the same thoughts in mind.
"We have never had a losing season since 2003," Liberty coach Steve Hale said. "Our seniors deserve everyone's best effort (in the finale to avoid a losing season). This is a big game for our program and our seniors."
Liberty opened in 2003 and went 1-9 that season while competing in Division IV, Region 14. Its lone win was in the opener, 14-0 over a Licking Heights team that was then in Division V.
Liberty finished 8-3 the following season, losing to Maumee 24-14 in the first round of the Division II, Region 6 playoffs.
Thomas is coming off a 55-14 loss to Hilliard Davidson on Oct. 25.
"It was lopsided and we just couldn't slow them down," Gordon said. "We had no answer defensively. They just came right at us and rolled us. We've got a big senior class and five or six guys are going to play on the next level. It's important to this senior class to go out with a win.
"We need to stay focused and play the way we're capable of playing to go out on a high note. Liberty has a good offensive line and (Luke Callahan) is a Division I college recruit (who has verbally committed to Cincinnati). They've got a good running back (Daryian Davies) and they throw it well from their spread offense. They also have playmakers in the 3-3 stack defense."
Tony Harvard (RB), Danny Gordon (QB) Richard Spernoga (OL/DL), Nick Petrucelli (LB), Jalen Wells (WR/DB) and Esai Slaughter (OL) are among those Cardinals hoping to play at the next level.
"Thomas is a much improved team," Hale said. "We will have to play really well to win."
Wolves need to keep focus against Pioneers
With opposite overall records entering the regular-season finale, Worthington Kilbourne coach Vince Trombetti said his team will need to remain focused when it plays host Friday, Nov. 1, to Orange.
The Wolves improved to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Capital with a 14-12 win Oct. 25 over previously unbeaten New Albany, which entered as the state's top-ranked team in Division II.
Orange fell to 1-8 overall and 1-5 in the league with a 17-0 loss to Big Walnut on Oct. 25.
"We have an exceptional group of seniors, and that's why we have been winning," said Trombetti, whose team has clinched a first-round home game in the Division II, Region 5 playoffs. "They understand the focus that they need to play every week and that we can't take any opponent lightly. They know we still have things that we can improve on and they will be working hard all week to get better."
Junior cornerback Joe Davis intercepted New Albany quarterback Tanner Cline in the fourth quarter and broke up a fourth-down pass in the final minute to seal the Wolves' win.
Junior quarterback Griffin Dahn rushed for a 1-yard touchdown and connected with senior wide receiver Keaton Reinhart on a 28-yard score.
"(The Wolves) are just solid on both sides of the football," Orange coach Brian Cross said. "They come at you with a bunch of guys who can take it to the house on every play. They're just a handful.
"Defensively, they held New Albany to 12 points and shut out Olentangy (33-0 win Oct. 18). They are just really athletic and get to the football. They don't beat themselves."
Against Big Walnut, sophomore running back Tyler Lichter rushed for 41 yards on eight carries for Orange. Senior running back Jake Bobrowski added 29 yards on eight carries and junior quarterback C.J. Stablein was 6-for-13 passing for 102 yards.
"I'm watching (Stablein) run the ball on film, and he's pretty good," Trombetti said. "When he pulls the ball down and runs the option, he can really hurt you. But (Cross) has always been the master of the wing-T, so you know they'll be tough to defend."