It will be a surreal experience for Olentangy Liberty High School quarterback Taylor Hudson when the Patriots play host to neighbor Olentangy in a key OCC-Cardinal Division game on Friday.
Hudson grew up just four doors down from Olentangy coach Ed Terwilliger and served as the Braves' ball boy when he was 10.
"The past two years (playing Olentangy) didn't have much of an impact on me, but now that I'm the starting quarterback, it's going to be different for sure," Hudson said. "I remember how awesome it was getting to be on the sidelines and be a part of the atmosphere (as a ball boy). Coach Ed was a real inspiration to all his players. It'll be weird going against my old neighbor."
Despite the two schools only being about five miles apart, Terwilliger said Hudson is one of the last links between the two programs. After Liberty opened its doors in the fall of 2003, the schools didn't play each other for five years.
The first meeting between them came in 2008 when both teams were assigned to the OCC-Cardinal Division. Liberty defeated Olentangy 21-16 in 2008 and 29-6 last year.
"All I know is they want to beat us and we beat them," Terwilliger said. "Offensively they're the total opposite of us and we'll have to adjust to that."
Liberty runs a no-huddle, spread offense led by Hudson (6-foot-1, 180 pounds). He's completed 66 of 122 passes for 814 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions. A.J. Motika (6-2, 170) has 28 receptions for 431 yards and three touchdowns, and Matt Osolinski (6-1, 170) has eight receptions for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots will try to find holes in a defense that is led by linebacker Joshua Perry (6-3, 223) and defensive back Bryce Cheek (6-0, 178), who have verbally committed to Ohio State and Akron, respectively. The Braves have forced four interceptions and four turnovers and allowed 586 yards and four passing touchdowns this year.
"It's a very fast-paced offense, something we haven't faced this season," Olentangy linebacker Garrett Schmidt said. "But we'll adjust to whatever style we face this year."
Through five games this season, Olentangy has had a ground-based offense led by senior fullback William Greathouse (5-11, 266). He's rushed for 388 yards and eight touchdowns. Quarterback Joey Gadd (6-0, 177) has completed 28 of 68 passes for 598 yards with a touchdown and four interceptions. Schmidt (6-3, 227) leads the team with six catches for 128 yards and Lew Staum (6-3, 200) has five receptions for 84 yards.
Coach Steve Hale is more concerned with how his team is going to handle the size of the Braves' offensive and defensive lines. Olentangy has been led by offensive linemen Reid Dantuono (6-5, 267), Claude Mbemba (6-3, 240), Christian Murphy (6-1, 245), Brandon Owens (6-0, 235) and Bryan Young (6-1, 279).
"They're bigger than us at every position," Hale said. "It's going to be a matter of who can stand in there after getting punched in the face. With their size and their strength, they start moving us around and creating holes, it's going to be trouble."