Wracked by injuries as it approached its second consecutive showdown between unbeatens, the Olentangy Liberty football team again showed the depth that has helped it go 38-9 with three state semifinal appearances since the start of the 2016 season.
With eight players on the sidelines in street clothes Sept. 27 because of various injuries, including starting quarterback Corbin Parrish, running back Aidan Kenley and two-way lineman Ben Wrather, the Patriots barely skipped a beat in edging visiting Groveport 21-14 to improve to 5-0.
In his first career start, quarterback Jackson Roberts completed 13 of 17 passes for 142 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots built a 21-7 lead minutes into the third quarter.
“Everybody says ‘next man up’ and I asked our team do they really believe it? Our guys never wavered,” Liberty coach Steve Hale said. “We’re very, very pleased with the performance with all of our players. Jackson will get a lot of the attention, but we had some new linebackers and running backs starting to fill in the roles they did.”
Roberts completed touchdown passes of 2 yards to Matt Hale in the first minute of the second quarter, 33 yards to Jacob Kessler on the Patriots’ next possession and 20 yards to Kyle Wilson to cap the first drive of the second half. That possession began after a Groveport fumble at its own 34-yard line.
“I felt good. We’d been preparing all week. The effort was great all around,” said Roberts, who completed 12 of his first 13 throws. “My receivers ran some crisp routes with some good blocking up front. It all came together.”
The Patriots entered the game first in Division I, Region 3 computer points. Groveport, which was off to its first 4-0 start since 2010, was third.
Emmanuel Anthony’s 2-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds left in the first half pulled the Cruisers within 14-7, and John Motton returned a punt that fell in a stiff north wind 25 yards for a touchdown with 3 minutes, 38 seconds to play.
“We didn’t play real smart to start off. We had some mental errors we couldn’t afford,” said Groveport coach Bryan Schoonover, whose team committed eight penalties for 90 yards. “It’s all correctable stuff. They fought hard. It’s a learning experience.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final GROVEPORT 0 7 0 7 14 OLENTANGY LIBERTY
0 14 7 0 21
OL—Hale 2 pass from Roberts (Rosselli kick)
OL—Kessler 33 pass from Roberts (Rosselli kick)
G—Anthony 2 run (Snyder kick)
OL—Wilson 20 pass from Roberts (Rosselli kick)
G—Motton 25 punt return (Snyder kick)