On two different occasions, Whitmer’s 2018 season came down to gaining one yard on fourth down.
There was no hesitation on the Whitmer sideline in either situation.
The Panthers called on their muscle with two tight ends and running back Kobe Myers, and both times kept their drive — and eventually, their season — alive.
Myers scored a one-yard touchdown with 1 minute, 52 seconds remaining and the Panthers’ defense forced a late fumble to defeat visiting Olentangy Orange 20-17 on Friday in the first round of the OHSAA Division I football playoffs.
“We have about three different backs that we rotate in there, but if we need one yard, we’re going to give it to Kobe every time,” Whtimer coach Ken Winters said. “We got him in there, got two tight ends in there with [Cavon Butler], and we were running the ball the whole time.”
Whitmer (9-2), the No. 3 seed in Region 2, will advance to play second-seeded Dublin Coffman in the round of 16. The Shamrocks defeated Westerville Central on Friday.
"I felt like we ran out of time tonight, and that’s what I told the guys," Orange coach Zebb Schroeder said. "I’m proud of them and proud of their effort. This is how this group is. They’re fierce competitors. It doesn’t always look pretty, but they just keep fighting and fighting. We just ran out of time.
Myers finished with 98 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries for Whitmer, while receiver Dalan Layton caught 12 passes for 95 yards and touchdown before leaving the game with an injury.
The Panthers scored on their first possession of both halves against Orange (7-4).
Orange quarterback Robbie Dayhuff overthrew his first pass of the day, and Whitmer safety PaSean Wimberly intercepted the ball to give the Panthers’ offense its first possession.
Myers broke through for 32 yards on his first carry to set up a six-play, 73-yard drive that he finished with an 11-yard touchdown run to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
Whitmer staved off Orange’s attempt to tie the game just before halftime. The Pioneers drove 80 yards in just more than two minutes, but the Panthers dragged down Orange tight end Zach Harrison at the four-yard line as time expired on the half to preserve their seven-point lead.
Whitmer regularly double covered Harrison, the highly-recruited defensive end/tight end, and held him to two catches for 27 yards
“We had seen film on him that he was one of the top five in the region, so [we were] playing over the top,” said Wimberly, who also had two passes defended. “We knew we had to be physical with him and give him the work.”
In the end, zero points in the first half came back to bite the Pioneers.
“I just wish we could have punched it across and scored some points there [in the first half],” Schroeder said. “The drive right before half was crucial, too, because we got right down here and didn’t get any points.”
Panthers quarterback Riley Keller found Layton for a 28-yard touchdown on Whitmer’s first drive of the third quarter to take a 13-0 lead following a botched snap on the extra point.
However, Orange rallied with a field goal and two touchdowns from Dayhuff, the second of which gave the Pioneers’ their first lead with a 21-yard touchdown run with 5:55 to go.
The Panthers scored on a 62-yard drive in response to take a 20-17 lead, and the Pioneers never made it to field-goal range. Whitmer forced Dayhuff to fumble and Panthers defensive lineman Bryant Hayes pounced on it with just more than a minute to go to seal the victory.
For a Whitmer team that has made a habit of winning late in the game during the past two seasons, Friday’s finish was business as usual.
“Especially going back to last year, we know it’s 48 minutes,” Winters said. “Last year we won two games in the last minute, so if there’s time on the clock, we feel we can go down and score.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final OLENTANGY ORANGE 0 0 3 14 17 TOLEDO WHITMER
7 0 6 7 20