Olentangy High School football coach Mark Solis spent about a minute chatting with Cincinnati Winton Woods running back Miyan Williams after his stellar performance helped end the Braves' season.
Williams rushed for 279 of his 431 yards in the second half Nov. 2, leading the host and top-seeded Warriors back from a 35-14 deficit to stun the eighth-seeded Braves 49-42 in a Division II, Region 8 first-round playoff game.
"I just told him he was as good as I've seen in 20 years and to make sure he handles his business off the field and in the classroom," Solis said. "If he does that, he'll go wherever he wants to go. He is that good."
Solis then made his way to the other end of the field and spoke to his players for several minutes, emphasizing that they should take some solace in having tied for the OCC-Buckeye Division championship and made their fifth consecutive playoff appearance despite a 1-4 start.
But in the end, the way in which the season ended was a bitter pill for Solis and the Braves to swallow.
Olentangy lost despite amassing 603 yards of offense, 432 of which came from the arm of senior quarterback Connor Haag. Haag tossed two touchdowns to senior tight end Ian Drummond and another to senior wide receiver Caden Kaiser in the first half as the Braves led 21-0 after the first quarter and maintained that three-touchdown lead at halftime.
Williams had touchdown runs of 73 and 1 yards in the third quarter, the shorter one tying the game at 35 with 1.2 seconds left in the period after the Braves committed their second turnover, a fumble. After the 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior scored on an 88-yard run with 9:35 remaining, senior running back/slot receiver Luke Riedel tied the game for Olentangy on a 2-yard run with 6:43 left before Williams scored the game-winner on a 52-yard run with 4:40 left.
The Braves advanced to the Winton Woods 10-yard line in the final minute but could not score and finished 5-6 overall.
"We talked all week that we had to stop (Williams)," Solis said. "When you score 42 points, you're supposed to win the game. We knew they were coming, but we didn't finish. We didn't tackle. We need to assess some things in the offseason. That's on me. We'll get it fixed."
Williams' performance was the 25th best in a single game in state history, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
"I think he's the best player in the state," Winton Woods coach Andre Parker said. "We settled down a little bit at halftime and got back to playing our football. Our offensive line played its tails off. A lot of teams would have laid down with that halftime score. (Our players) kept believing."
Riedel was Olentangy's featured running back in place of senior Zach Shiblaq, who missed the game because of an injury. Riedel rushed for 168 yards on 31 carries, exceeding his regular-season output of 20 carries for 130 yards.
Riedel had 70 receptions for 595 yards and four touchdowns this season, while Shiblaq rushed for 1,116 yards and 10 touchdowns on 174 carries.
Haag completed 178 of 257 passes for 2,264 yards with 20 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Kaiser finished with exactly 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns on 53 receptions, and Drummond had 38 catches for 566 yards and seven scores.
Senior linebacker Colton Doup recorded a team-high 126 tackles, two ahead of classmate and fellow linebacker Nick McCafferty. Sophomore defensive lineman Ethan Hand led the Braves with five sacks.
The playoffs seemed a long way away after five weeks, when Olentangy had just one win against a schedule that included three eventual playoff qualifiers in Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Darby and Holland Springfield and two seven-win teams in Miamisburg and New Albany.
The Braves opened with losses to visiting Darby (17-14 on Aug. 24) and host Miamisburg (24-14 on Aug. 31) before defeating visiting Springfield 53-33 on Sept. 7.
The Braves then squandered a 16-0 lead in a 22-16 loss at Coffman on Sept. 14 and fell 30-18 at home to New Albany on Sept. 28.
Olentangy's fortunes turned around with the start of OCC-Buckeye play. The Braves defeated visiting Westerville South 21-10 on Sept. 28 and edged host Orange 35-34 in overtime on Oct. 5 before suffering their only league loss, 21-14 at Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 12.
Olentangy finished the season with wins against visiting Westerville North (42-14 on Oct. 19) and host Westerville Central (42-21 on Oct. 26) to clinch a playoff spot. The Braves also tied Liberty and Orange for the league championship as all three teams went 4-1.
"Our losses were discouraging, but we were still trying hard," McCafferty said. "By the time we got to our league schedule, everybody we'd played had us very prepared for anything we'd see."
Expected returnees include juniors Nick Boyarko (RB/LB), Jake Coleman (WR), Mitchell Grubb (DL), Trent Maddox (QB) and sophomores Jace Middleton (WR) and Toby Wilson (OL).
Maddox completed 50 of 77 passes for 577 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.