The Olentangy Liberty High School football team had been outgained by 203 yards at halftime of its Division I, Region 2 semifinal against Reynoldsburg on Nov. 9 at DeSales, but the Patriots had their defense to thank — specifically junior linebacker Ben Cox — for the fact that they were in the driver’s seat.
Cox’s fumble recovery set up what turned out to be the game-winning 28-yard field goal from Mitchell Kershner in the second quarter, and he later blocked a would-be tying field goal to highlight a stellar night for Liberty’s defense in a 10-0 upset of the top-seeded Raiders.
Reynoldsburg committed four turnovers, three of which were fumbles.
“This feels good, but this was a team effort and I’m proud of everybody,” said Cox, who blocked a 36-yard field-goal attempt by Cocy Goff with 54 seconds left in the first half. “We’ve been good against the run all year and we knew as soon as they stopped running, they’d pass the ball and we just kept hitting and pursuing. Eventually they got tired. We never did.”
Quarterback Mitchell Okuley dashed up the middle 44 yards for a touchdown on the fifth play of the second half to give the Patriots a 10-0 lead.
Fourth-seeded Liberty improved to 8-4 and will play second-seeded Dublin Coffman in the regional final Nov. 16 at a site to be determined.
The Patriots are seeking their third consecutive regional championship.
Reynoldsburg outgained Liberty 231-28 in total yards in the first half and 267-152 for the game but was held to one first down in the second half and did not advance beyond the Liberty 49-yard line.
“We were doing the best we could. Their defense is really, really tough and we made plenty of big plays on defense and just enough plays on offense to stay alive,” Patriots coach Steve Hale said. “You keep plugging away and you get that play where the quarterback comes out with it (Okuley’s touchdown) and that’s hard to defend.”
Reynoldsburg, which was coming off only its second playoff victory in program history, finished 10-2.
“We made some good things happen, but we didn’t finish our drives,” Raiders coach Buddy White said. “We just never really got it going. Four turnovers will kill you.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final OLENTANGY LIBERTY 0 3 7 0 10 REYNOLDSBURG
0 0 0 0 0
OL—Kershner 28 FG
OL—Okuley 44 run (Kershner kick)