An injury kept a pair of future teammates from facing each other during a Week 5 contest between the Olentangy Liberty and Groveport football teams this fall.
Liberty offensive lineman Ben Wrather suffered a season-ending broken right ankle during his team’s 22-10 win over Hilliard Davidson on Sept. 20 and didn’t get to face Groveport two-way lineman Te-Rah Edwards a week later in the Patriots’ 21-14 victory over the Cruisers.
The teams met again Nov. 15 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal, and Edwards helped Groveport avenge the loss with a 13-7 win as Wrather remained on the sidelines. Liberty finished 10-2.
On Dec. 18, Edwards and Wrather both signed national letters of intent with Northwestern during the early signing period for football, which ended Dec. 20.
“(Our teams) obviously played twice this season, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs,” Wrather said. “I was hurt, unfortunately, for both of those games, but I’ve been texting him and talking to him.”
Listed at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds and considered a three-star recruit by various recruiting outlets, Wrather became the first offensive lineman in Northwestern’s 2020 recruiting class when he committed April 22.
Wrather also had scholarship offers from other Power 5 programs such as Kentucky, Louisville, Penn State, Purdue and West Virginia.
“Throughout my junior year and into the offseason, (Northwestern) started talking to me more,” Wrather said. “It’s pretty prestigious, definitely. Academics have always been really high on my priority list. Having the opportunity to go to Northwestern gets you prepared for life after football.”
Wrather, who moved to Powell in seventh grade after previously living in Seattle and St. Louis, committed nine days after the 6-4, 310-pound Edwards announced he would sign with Northwestern.
Edwards was a first-team all-OCC-Capital Division and all-district honoree this season as an offensive lineman but is expected to play on the defensive line for the Wildcats.
He had 39 tackles and 4.5 sacks during the regular season while playing defense for the Cruisers, who lost to eventual state champion Pickerington Central 23-7 in the Region 3 final to finish 10-3.
Edwards also considered offers from Michigan State and Tennessee but chose the Wildcats, who went 3-9 this season under 14th-year coach Pat Fitzgerald after reaching the Big Ten championship game last season.
“I started picking up offers (last) December,” Edwards said. “(Northwestern) was the school I had the most contact with and clicked the most with. It just felt like home to me. I talk to Ben here and there and we’re excited because we feel like it’s a special (recruiting) class.
“Right now, I’m a better offensive lineman and with us running the wing-T, I was able to showcase my talent. This was only my second year going both ways.”
Another Power 5 program that recruited heavily in the area was Kentucky, which gained commitments from Northland’s Kalil Branham (WR) and Westerville Central’s Rickey Hyatt (athlete).
Also committing to Big Ten programs were Hartley’s Miles Fleming (athlete) and Hilliard Davidson’s Gage Keys (DL) with Minnesota, Grandview’s Luke Lachey (TE) with Iowa, Hilliard Bradley’s Chris Mayfield (DL) with Michigan State and Pickerington Central’s Ty Hamilton (LB) with Ohio State.
Hamilton was a first-team all-district honoree who helped the Tigers go 14-1 and win their second state title in three seasons, totaling 120 tackles, 8.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss.
Fleming was at quarterback this season as Hartley went 12-2 and reached a Division III state semifinal, but likely will end up at another position, possibly defensive back, when he gets to Minnesota.
Hyatt was a first-team all-district honoree at defensive back for the Warhawks, who also had two others sign Dec 18 in J.J. Johnson (OL/DL, Eastern Illinois) and Myles Williamson (WR/RB/DB, Bowling Green).
Lachey, who was a first-team all-district honoree with 57 catches for 720 yards and seven touchdowns this season and is considered a three-star recruit by various recruiting outlets, committed to play for the Hawkeyes in July.
His older brother, James, was a redshirt freshman tight end for Bowling Green this season and their father, Jim, was an All-America guard at Ohio State who played 10 years in the NFL.
The Hawkeyes are 9-3 heading into their matchup against USC in the Holiday Bowl on Friday, Dec. 27.
“I like a lot of things about Iowa, but the things I really like the most is how close all of the commits are,” Lachey said. “We really made it a priority to get to know each other before we get to Iowa City. I also really like the coaches (because) I feel they will push me as hard as possible.”
@UlreyThisWeekAt a glance
Below is a list of central Ohio football players who announced their college commitments during the early signing period from Dec. 18-20:
NAME, HIGH SCHOOL, COLLEGE
Hunter Allen, Canal Winchester, Youngstown State
Kalil Branham, Northland, Kentucky
Connor Carretta, St. Charles, Bucknell
Te-Rah Edwards, Groveport, Northwestern
Miles Fleming, Hartley, Minnesota
Ty Hamilton, Pickerington Central, Ohio State
Rickey Hyatt, Westerville Central, Kentucky
J.J. Johnson, Westerville Central, Eastern Illinois
Gage Keys, Hilliard Davidson, Minnesota
Luke Lachey, Grandview, Iowa
Michael Mansaray, Westerville South, South Dakota
Sam Massick, Columbus Academy, Princeton
Chris Mayfield, Hilliard Bradley, Michigan State
David Metzler, Hilliard Bradley, Youngstown State
Cole Potts, DeSales, James Madison
Myles Williamson, Westerville Central, Bowling Green
Ben Wrather, Olentangy Liberty, Northwestern