Getting out to a better start is among the goals for the Olentangy Liberty High School football team in its final regular-season tuneup Friday, Oct. 27, at home against Westerville North.
The Patriots already have earned at least a share of the OCC-Buckeye Division championship and they can wrap it up outright, as well as move closer to locking up a first-round home game for the Division I, Region 2 playoffs, with a win.
After a 25-24 victory over Orange on Oct. 20, Liberty was projected to be second in the region in computer points and has clinched a postseason berth.
The Patriots have won four in a row and are 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the league.
North has lost five in a row and is 2-7 overall and 0-4 in the league.
"At the end of the day, our kids love it when there's a lot of emotion and a lot on the line," coach Steve Hale said. "Our kids get this great opportunity down the road to just keep living that dream further. Hopefully in the future we'll try not to fall so far behind."
Liberty trailed 14-0 before rallying for a 28-17 win over Olentangy on Oct. 13 and then fell behind 17-0 and 24-6 before coming back against the Pioneers.
Against Orange, junior quarterback Mitchell Okuley hit junior wide receiver Ben Roderick for a 9-yard touchdown with 9 minutes, 28 seconds left to cut it to 24-13.
The Patriots then got a 1-yard touchdown run by Matt Webb with 3:01 to go and a 2-yard scoring run by Webb with 32 seconds left.
Okuley completed 16 of 28 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns, and Johnny Wiseman had eight catches for 86 yards and one score.
"(We told them to) just keep playing, just keep focused on what your job is," Hale said. "At some point we want to not get behind like we have been early and not have those problems, but we're certainly building a lot of character as we're doing it.
"Obviously we've been very fortunate. Orange is an exceptional team, and when we can come away with wins (over both Orange and Olentangy), it speaks volumes."
North has been led offensively by senior running back Bodi Bien (815 yards, 6 touchdowns), senior tight end Rodney Van Cleaf (22 catches for 228 yards) and junior running back Rondale Smith (463 yards, 6 touchdowns).
Senior Jacob Woods and sophomore Reno Godfrey both have seen time at quarterback.
Defensively, Woods (DB) and Van Cleaf (LB) have joined seniors Alek Downs (LB), J.J. Harvey (DL) and Greg Shehee (LB) as key leaders. Downs has 63 tackles and two sacks, Shehee has 52 tackles and Harvey has 3.5 sacks.