Quarterback Joey Longhino threw for 184 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the Olentangy Liberty High School football team to a 40-35 win over visiting Westerville South in an OCC-Cardinal Division game on Friday, Oct. 28.
Liberty improved to 6-4 overall and earned a share of the OCC-Cardinal championship along with South and Westerville Central, as all three finished 5-2 in the league. South — which missed an opportunity to win the league title outright — also finished 6-4 overall.
Liberty last won a league title in 2008 when it shared the OCC-Cardinal championship with South.
“Our kids have fought through so much this year,” Liberty coach Steve Hale said. “We were 2-4 at one time and we’re looking at the schedule wondering how many more wins are left on it. The kids just fought all year long and they fought tonight. There were so many times when we were almost out of it, the game was almost sealed. We just kept fighting. I’m speechless right now.”
South opened a 28-13 lead with 4 minutes, 39 seconds left in the second quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Daxton Cates.
Liberty made it 28-20 on a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Luke Fleming with 1:20 left in the half. Three plays later, Cates fumbled at the Wildcats’ 38 and the Patriots’ Matt Cubberly recovered. Six plays later, Longhino threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bryson Wray with 8 seconds left, and the Patriots made the two-point conversion on a pass from Longhino to wide receiver A.J. Motika to tie the game at 28.
“We were up 28-13 and we had the game under control,” South coach Rocky Pentello said.
Liberty took a 34-28 lead in the third quarter on a 20-yard run by Longhino and extended its lead to 40-28 with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard run by running back Myles Robinson.
South cut the deficit to 40-35 with 2:14 left on a 3-yard run by running back Noah Prentiss and, after forcing the Patriots to go three-and-out on the ensuing possession, got the ball back at its own 18 with 1:23 remaining.
Wildcats quarterback Marcus Ball completed a 62-yard pass to wide receiver Gary Brown to the Patriots’ 18 with 24 seconds left and connected again with Brown to the Liberty 10 on the next play. However, with no timeouts remaining, South was not able to get off another play before time expired.
“We’re still league champions and our guys played like league champions,” said Pentello, whose team has won four consecutive OCC-Cardinal titles. “I thought our guys played hard all the way to the end. We just made way too many mistakes.”
South opened the scoring on its first possession with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ball to wide receiver Kelly Carter. Liberty then tied the game at 7 on the ensuing possession, as Longhino scored on a 5-yard run.
South regained the lead at 14-7 when Cates scored on a 6-yard run, but Liberty made it 14-13 later in the first quarter as Longhino scored on a 4-yard run. The snap on the extra-point attempt was high, and the holder, Matt Muntean, tried to run for two points but was stopped short of the goal line. The touchdown was set up by defensive back Tyler Welch, who intercepted South quarterback Nick Renzetti and returned the ball 3 yards to the Wildcats’ 26.
South then opened a 21-13 lead late in the first quarter when Carter returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.
“Every single win we’ve had this year, we’ve had to come back,” said Longhino, who completed 17 of 29 passes. “Coach (Hale) had a great plan for us each week and we came back and found a way to win. This win is huge.”
Robinson rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries.
Ball was 16-for-28 for 216 yards and a touchdown and Cates had 22 carries for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
Liberty was clinging to hope of making the playoffs after the game. Entering the contest, South was 10th in the Division I, Region 3 computer rankings through Week 9 and Liberty was 13th. The top eight teams in each region qualify for the playoffs.
The first round of the Division I playoffs will be played Nov. 5.
“We need quite a bit of help,” Hale said. “We’ll see how that shakes out.”
WESTERVILLE SOUTH 21 7 0 7 -- 35
OLENTANGY LIBERTY 13 15 6 6 -- 40
WS--Carter 17 pass from Ball (Bonnell kick)
OL--Longhino 5 run (Vucelich kick)
WS--Cates 6 run (Bonnell kick)
OL--Longhino 4 run (run failed)
WS--Carter 88 kickoff return (Bonnell kick)
WS--Cates 3 run (Bonnell kick)
OL--Fleming 1 run (Vucelich kick)
OL--Wray 8 pass from Longhino (Motika pass from Longhino)
OL--Longhino 20 run (kick blocked)
OL--Robinson 20 run (pass failed)
WS--Prentiss 3 run (Bonnell kick)