FINDLAY — The Olentangy Liberty High School football team earned a return trip to the Division I state semifinals with a convincing 34-7 win over Toledo Whitmer in the Region 2 final Nov. 17 at Findlay.
The Patriots improved to 11-2 and will face Mentor in a state semifinal Nov. 24 at a site to be determined. Mentor defeated Cleveland St. Ignatius 23-21 in the Region 1 final Nov. 17.
Top-seeded Whitmer, which was ranked second in the final state poll, finished 12-1.
The second-seeded Patriots played without one of their top players in wide receiver and defensive back Johnny Wiseman, who was suspended for one game after being penalized for targeting in a 17-14 win over sixth-seeded Gahanna in a regional semifinal Nov. 10.
“All we talked about before the game was how much they care about each other,” Liberty coach Steve Hale said. “This team cares about each other more than any other team I’ve ever seen, maybe rivaling last year’s team. It’s amazing to watch.”
Liberty took control early as it opened a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
After fumbling on his first carry of the game, Matthew Webb atoned for the turnover with a 62-yard run that set up the game’s first score — his 1-yard touchdown run.
The Patriots added to their lead when quarterback Mitchell Okuley connected with Jacob Sincek for a 6-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Webb, who finished with 156 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, scored on a 6-yard run with 4:24 left in the second quarter to extend Liberty’s lead to 21-0.
Whitmer scored with 54 seconds remaining in the half as quarterback Riley Keller connected with Patrick Mappe for a 28-yard touchdown on fourth-and-3 to make it 21-7, but the Patriots’ defense shut down the Panthers’ offense for the remainder of the game and Liberty added two touchdowns in the second half.
Okuley threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Ben Roderick in the third quarter and a 16-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Kershner in the fourth.
“We had the early turnover and I just can’t say enough about our defense, the way they came out on the field on that first drive and got it back for us,” Hale said. “Matt Webb had such a great game and made so many plays. I was really impressed by him. Our offensive line has gotten better every week this year.”
The Patriots finished with 411 total yards and held Whitmer to just 139, including 10 yards rushing.
Okuley rushed for 92 yards on 13 carries and completed 10 of 15 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns.
Troy Oehler and Lucas Campbell had interceptions for Liberty.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final OLENTANGY LIBERTY 14 7 7 6 34 TOLEDO WHITMER
0 7 0 0 7
OL—Webb 1 run (Leary kick)
OL—Sincek 6 pass from Okuley (Leary kick)
OL—Webb 6 run (Leary kick)
TW—Mappe 28 pass from Keller (Filby kick)
OL—Roderick 52 pass from Okuley (Leary kick)
OL—Kershner 16 pass from Okuley (kick failed)