Trailing by two touchdowns and with its season on the line, the Olentangy Liberty High School football team didn't lose heart in a Division I state semifinal Nov. 25 at Arlin Field in Mansfield.

Trailing by two touchdowns and with its season on the line, the Olentangy Liberty High School football team didn't lose heart in a Division I state semifinal Nov. 25 at Arlin Field in Mansfield.

Instead, the Patriots rallied around one another, as they had done so many times throughout the greatest season in program history.

With a 24-14 loss to Cleveland St. Ignatius, Liberty finished 13-1.

"In the second half, everybody was just synergized and hit them in the mouth," senior defensive back Vincent Ramondelli said. "It's a really big season for us, really big for the program. It kind of puts us on the map for the rest of the state to see that we're the real deal now."

With senior Brendon White at quarterback after sophomore starter Mitchell Okuley went down with a first-half knee injury, the Patriots produced their first touchdown on the first drive of the second half. White found junior wide receiver Johnny Wiseman for a 26-yard scoring pass that made it 14-7.

After St. Ignatius took a 21-7 lead on a 69-yard touchdown run by quarterback Patrick Ryan early in the fourth quarter, White hooked up with senior Drew Rosi for a 7-yard touchdown pass that made it 21-14.

The Wildcats, who added a 36-yard field goal by Colin Goodfellow in the closing seconds, improved to 9-5 and advanced to the state final Friday, Dec. 2, against Cincinnati St. Xavier.

"That's what we've seen from them all year, fight, fight, fight, fight," coach Steve Hale said. "(There were) a lot of wins for (the seniors)."

The 21-member senior class was led by Rosi (DL/TE) and White (QB/RB/WR/DB). Both were named first-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division.

Wiseman (WR/DB/RB) was the league's Player of the Year as Liberty went 5-0 to capture the title ahead of Olentangy, Orange and Westerville Central (all 3-2), Westerville South (1-4) and Westerville North (0-5).

Liberty beat Orange twice -- 20-13 in two overtimes Oct. 21 and then 24-17 over the eighth-seeded Pioneers in the first round of the Region 2 playoffs.

The Patriots, who were the top seed in the region after posting their first perfect regular season, then beat fifth-seeded Medina 45-27 on Nov. 11 at Arlin Field and third-seeded Lorain 24-20 on Nov. 18 at Mansfield Madison to win the regional title.

The other seniors to make first-team all-league were Kyle Akerman (LB/RB), Will Fowler (WR/DB) and Connor Parrish (OL/DL), and Hale was named the league's Coach of the Year.

Junior linebacker Edward Warinner, who suffered a season-ending injury in a 31-0 victory over Olentangy on Oct. 14, also was first-team all-league.

Making second-team all-league were seniors Andrew Crooks (OL/DL), Ben Rinsma (WR) and A.J. Smith (K), juniors John Paolo (LB/RB) and Matthew Webb (RB) and Okuley (QB). Senior Chase Smith (OL/DL) was special mention and senior Nick Azusenis (OL/DL) was honorable mention.

Parrish, A.J. Smith and Warinner were first-team all-district, Wiseman was second-team all-district, Rosi, Webb and White were special mention and Akerman, senior Drew Doll (DL), Fowler, Paolo and Chase Smith were honorable mention.

White, who has committed to Ohio State and is expected to enroll in January, led the way against St. Ignatius. He rushed for 48 yards, passed for 83 yards and two touchdowns and had four receptions for 64 yards.

For the season, White completed 60 of 128 passes for 799 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions, rushed for 842 yards and 10 touchdowns and added 22 catches for 220 yards and four scores.

Rinsma was the team's leading receiver with 36 catches for 658 yards and four touchdowns, and Rosi had 29 catches for 282 yards and four scores.

Defensively, Rosi had six tackles for loss and seven sacks, and Akerman, Doll and Chase Smith all finished with four tackles for loss.

Okuley, Paolo, Warinner, Webb and Wiseman should be among the top returnees.

Okuley completed 108 of 178 passes for 1,358 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions and added 140 yards and two touchdowns rushing.

Webb was the leading rusher with 1,223 yards and eight touchdowns on 251 carries. Wiseman had 209 yards and three touchdowns rushing and added 23 receptions for 389 yards with nine touchdowns.

Another key wide receiver was sophomore Jake Sincek, who had 16 catches for 263 yards and three touchdowns.

Warinner finished with a team-leading seven tackles for loss and had 54 tackles over the first eight games.

Others eligible to return include juniors C.J. Nossaman (LS), Troy Oehler (WR/DB) and Nick Rosi (OL) and sophomores Ben Roderick (WR/DB) and Grant Wilson (WR/DB).

"(We had) a lot as seniors and we definitely pulled through," Doll said. "We definitely set a lot of milestones for the people coming up."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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