The Olentangy Liberty High School football team will try to move on from its worst loss in more than eight years when it plays Friday, Sept. 29, at Westerville Central in the OCC-Buckeye Division opener for both teams.

Putting the teams on similar footing is that both the Patriots and Warhawks were handed a blowout defeat by Pickerington North.

After the Panthers beat Central 42-3 on Sept. 15, they defeated Liberty 42-0 on Sept. 22 as the Patriots fell to 3-2.

Liberty hadn’t lost by that many points since opening the 2009 season with a 52-0 loss to Dublin Coffman.

That season, the Patriots bounced back to make the playoffs.

“We’ve got to get better,” coach Steve Hale said. “We’ve got to get back to work. (North’s) a very talented football team.”

The Patriots were held to 45 yards of offense against North as quarterback Mitchell Okuley was under duress throughout much of his time in the pocket and completed just five of 26 passes for 35 yards.

Running back Matt Webb and wide receivers Ben Roderick and Johnny Wiseman also are key skill-position players for Liberty, which won the OCC-Buckeye last year at 5-0.

Central followed its loss to North by losing to Reynoldsburg 41-31 on Sept. 22, dropping to 2-3.

The Warhawks lost to Liberty 24-14 last season on their way to a second-place tie in the league with Olentangy and Orange at 3-2.

Against Reynoldsburg, quarterback Isaiah Healy completed 16 of 27 passes for 201 yards and rushed 18 times for 76 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Allen Smith had 24 carries for 177 yards and one score.

Ashton Gilkey had six catches for 92 yards and Cameron Phillips added five receptions for 69 yards as Central outgained the Raiders 452-385.

Senior linebacker Edward Warinner returned against North after missing time with an injury and finished with four tackles and one interception to lead Liberty’s defense.

“The challenge for us is to get back to work and see how much better we can get,” Hale said.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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