Despite facing a team that has lost back-to-back games, Olentangy Liberty High School football coach Steve Hale knows his squad will face a challenge when it visits Hilliard Davidson on Friday, Sept. 15.
The Patriots rallied past host Marysville 32-21 on Sept. 8 to improve to 2-1, while Davidson lost at Hilliard Bradley 28-10 on Sept. 8 to slip to 1-2.
“We want to play the best, and they’re the (last) team in central Ohio that’s gone on and won the state championship at our level (in 2006 and 2009), so obviously they’re doing a lot of things right,” Hale said.
Liberty and Davidson have met the past five seasons, with the Wildcats holding a 3-2 edge in the all-time series. The Patriots won the matchup 28-3 last season.
Liberty trailed Marysville 21-13 in the third quarter before scoring the game’s final 19 points. Mitchell Okuley passed for 151 yards and three touchdowns, and Matthew Webb had 132 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
The Patriots also feature wide receiver Johnny Wiseman, who was the OCC-Buckeye Division Player of the Year last season. He also is a key member of the secondary.
Like Hale, Davidson coach Brian White believes his team faces a tough task in this matchup. The Patriots are coming off a perfect regular season in 2016 and return several key players from that squad, which lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 24-14 in a Division I state semifinal to finish 13-1.
The Wildcats went 8-3 last season, losing to Dublin Coffman 24-3 in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
“They were a final four team last year, they have their quarterback back this year (and) they have Ed Warinner’s son (Edward) back this year,” White said. “You look at their linebackers and Warinner is going to Michigan State, and I don’t know that he stands out at being that much better than a couple of the other kids.”
Ed Warinner formerly was an assistant coach at Ohio State. He now is the offensive line coach and running game coordinator for Minnesota.
Davidson tied Bradley at 7 on A.J. VanVoorhis’ 35-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Royer in the second quarter before the Jaguars recorded a pair of touchdowns to take control.
Ben Wright rushed for 57 yards on 16 carries. For the season, he has 206 yards and three touchdowns on 64 carries.
“We didn’t have to watch a ton of film to realize these are the same guys we’ve been playing for the last few years,” Hale said. “They add little twists and things to their offensive scheme, but for the most part you know what you’re going to get. You have to be fundamentally sound, you have to be technique sound and you have to do things really well to get first downs and score points.”
Despite his team’s recent struggles, White said it must continue to focus on its ground attack.
“We have to try to keep their offense off the field and hopefully continue to get a little bit better of what we do running the option,” White said. “It’s not like we’re going to reinvent the wheel and it’s not like we’re going to start being some kind of spread offense and chuck it up 30 times a game. That’s not our personality.”