The Olentangy football team isn't planning to get bogged down by the details as it prepares to play host Friday, Oct. 18, to the only Division I team from central Ohio that still has a perfect record.
Keeping a week-to-week attitude also is serving Liberty well considering the number of injuries to key players it has endured despite standing at 7-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division.
After opening league play with a 23-20 win Oct. 4 at Westerville South, the Braves lost to Orange 28-14 on Oct. 11 to fall to 4-3 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Buckeye.
While the Patriots were projected to be first in computer points in Division I, Region 3 this week, the Braves were projected to be sixth in Division II, Region 7. The top eight teams in each region make the playoffs.
"We didn't play well last week, and a lot of that had to do with Orange because I thought they played really well, had a game plan and their kids executed versus the fact that we didn't," Olentangy coach Mark Solis said. "This time of year my concern is that we're getting better. We've improved as the year has gone on. We certainly have a huge challenge in front of ourselves and we can't worry about Liberty. We've got far-reaching things we've got to get ready to fix in ourselves, from execution to effort. Football as I've told our kids is a simple game and I think everybody tries to make it too complex."
One of the Braves' biggest strengths has been their ability to throw the ball with quarterback Trent Maddox, who is 126-for-195 passing for 1,437 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He was held to 94 yards passing and was intercepted twice by Orange as the Braves were limited to 205 yards of offense.
Maddox also is the team's leader in rushing yards with 261 on 50 carries with two touchdowns.
His favorite targets have been Jake Coleman (43 catches, 568 yards, 9 TDs) and Jace Middleton (33 catches, 416 yards, 3 TDs).
They'll battle a Liberty defense that is led by senior linebackers Tyson Chapman, Ben Cox and Dylan Stevens.
In a 37-20 win over South on Oct. 11, senior defensive lineman Matthew Barrett returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown. Stevens forced a fumble that senior defensive lineman Kaden Tong returned for a touchdown in a 17-7 win over Westerville Central on Oct. 4.
"(Olentangy) runs a lot of (run-pass option) and uses motion to get matchups they like," Liberty coach Steve Hale said. "They're always really solid and do a real nice job of getting in position and making plays. They're talented.
"We have a lot of guys that are close to playing. We've played so many different guys because we've been hit with injuries pretty badly. We keep adjusting the lineup and our guys keep responding."
Senior Jackson Roberts, who has been at quarterback the past three weeks after starting the season behind senior Corbin Parrish, was 12-for-22 passing for 194 yards with three touchdowns against South. Senior running back Brennan Rowe rushed 11 times for 83 yards and one touchdown as junior running back Aidan Kenley, who has been banged up, had six carries for 25 yards.
According to Hale, Parrish could return from injury before the end of the regular season.
Kyle Wilson had two receptions for 47 yards, scoring on both plays, and Camden Barcus added three catches for 42 yards and one score against the Wildcats.
Leading the Olentangy defense are senior linebacker Mitch Grubb (7 tackles for loss), senior defensive back Josiah Seymour (12 tackles against Orange) and junior defensive back Caleb Gossett (3 interceptions).
"Steve Hale has done an outstanding job (at Liberty)," Solis said. "What they've accomplished on the field has been admirable. We respect it. You've got a team that's been to the final four three years in a row and they've probably been the best team in central Ohio so far and they've played some really, really good football teams. The fact they've had a number of injuries, that's a testament to the program he's developed there.
"We were very physical (against South and in a 38-35 win over New Albany on Sept. 27) and last week (against Orange) we weren't. Our players are capable of so much more, but they're kids and we can't harp on the negative. We've got to pick them up and stay positive and keep fighting the good fight."