Listed at 6-foot-4 and considered a potential basketball recruit, wide receiver Ben Roderick usually has a few inches on the defensive backs he goes against when he’s on the field for the Olentangy Liberty High School football team.
He used his length to reel in what would become the game-winning catch in his team’s 17-14 victory over Gahanna Lincoln in a Division I, Region 2 semifinal Nov. 10 at Westerville North.
With 10 minutes remaining, the Patriots scored the game-winning points when Roderick caught a pass downfield from Mitchell Okuley and sprinted for a 56-yard touchdown.
“We knew they’d come in playing a lot of man-to-man (defense), so every day in practice everybody made me better,” Roderick said. “Having that practice makes it easier in the game. I ended up catching a touchdown, which is awesome, and we won, which is even better.”
Roderick’s catch was backed up by a strong performance from his teammates on defense as second-seeded Liberty improved to 10-2 and advanced to the regional final Nov. 17 against top-seeded Toledo Whitmer.
Gahanna, the sixth seed, moved to the Liberty 49 on the possession after Roderick’s touchdown, but a holding call and a 15-yard sack by Christopher Osborne of Gahanna quarterback Mike Lowery forced the Lions into a third-and-46 from their own 15.
On the next play, Lowery threw over the middle to Joel Andujar, but Liberty’s Johnny Wiseman was whistled for targeting and was ejected.
The Lions were forced to punt, but got the ball back with 3:17 remaining at their own 17. On fourth-and-3 from the Gahanna 36-yard line, Lowery was sacked by the Patriots’ Edward Warinner.
After the Lions forced a punt on Liberty’s opening drive of the third quarter, they took a 14-7 lead with 10:08 to go on their first play of the ensuing drive when Jerome Buckner ran for a 62-yard touchdown.
The Patriots cut it to 14-10 with 4:31 left in the third quarter on a 28-yard field goal by Dante Leary.
The Lions drove 71 yards on the game’s opening drive, with Lowery hitting Buckner for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
Roderick also scored Liberty’s other touchdown, on a 15-yard reception in the second quarter.
“We had opportunities,” Gahanna coach Bruce Ward said. “Take nothing away from (Liberty), but we were not at our best tonight.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final GAHANNA LINCOLN 7 0 7 0 14 OLENTANGY LIBERTY
0 7 3 7 17
GL—Buckner 7 pass from Lowery (Stillwell kick)
OL—Roderick 15 pass from Okuley (Leary kick)
GL—Buckner 62 run (Stillwell kick)
OL—Leary 28 FG
OL—Roderick 56 pass from Okuley (Leary kick)