If the Olentangy High School football team's Division I, Region 2 semifinal against Toledo Whitmer on Friday, Nov. 10, turns out like the last meeting between the programs, the Braves won't complain.
In one of the wildest playoff games of coach Mark Solis' five-year tenure, Olentangy edged Whitmer 24-21 in a Region 1 semifinal Nov. 14, 2015, on Jacob Bell's 52-yard field goal as time expired. The Braves came from behind twice that night and scored the final 10 points of the game.
Like that game, this one will be played at Tiffin Columbian.
But according to Solis, that is where the similarities end -- even down to the fact that the fifth-seeded Braves will be the designated road team this week because Whitmer is the top seed in the region.
"They're a different team than we faced two years ago," Solis said. "They have a different coach (Ken Winters). They have talent all over the place; their defense features players who fly around. They're athletic. They're aggressive. We'll have our hands full.
"You get to this point and there are no fluke teams left. Everybody deserves to be here."
Olentangy used another comeback win to advance, as they knocked off host and fourth-seeded Dublin Coffman 28-24 in a first-round game Nov. 3 to improve to 8-3. Quarterback Riley Bruening threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jace Middleton with 27 seconds left, capping a 79-yard drive that covered less than 90 seconds.
Olentangy also beat Coffman 31-14 on Sept. 15.
Whitmer improved to 11-0 by the skin of its teeth, edging eighth-seeded Lorain 31-28 on Nov. 3 when Eric Filby made a 20-yard field goal as time expired.
The Braves trailed Coffman by 10 points on three occasions, the last at 24-14 before scoring two unanswered touchdowns to win. Middleton, a freshman, caught two touchdown passes from Bruening as his workload increased after receiver Caden Kaiser had to leave with an injury.
"When I was running the pattern, my first thought was that I had a big height advantage on their corner, and if Riley just threw it up there high enough, I could come down with it," the 6-foot-3 Middleton said of the winning touchdown. "I was just trying to make a play. Somebody had to."
According to Solis, Kaiser should be healthy enough to play against Whitmer.
Whitmer recovered three fumbles for touchdowns and had led Lorain, which eliminated Olentangy in the first round last year, by eight points in the final two minutes.
"To have some success at the end like that is unbelievable," Winters told The (Toledo) Blade. "It means a lot, especially for the seniors, to win their last game on their home field and then keep going (in the playoffs). We want to keep this thing rolling."
Sophomore quarterback Riley Keller's top targets include Patrick Mappe and Zach Walling. Devin Mauder and Kobe Myers anchor the run game.
Whitmer averages 37 points per game and allows 12.3. Olentangy scores 29.4 per game and gives up 22.1.
"We have to go out and play physical against them," Solis said. "(Keller) and their passing game concern me. They'll run a 4-3 (defense) and blitz a bit. Their defensive line is impressive."
The winner will play second-seeded Liberty or sixth-seeded Gahanna in the regional final Nov. 17 at a neutral site to be determined.