Olentangy Orange: Pioneers break even in lesson-filled season

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Senior wide receiver Julian DiSabato was a key contributor for Orange on offense, catching 23 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown. The Pioneers finished 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Central Division.

The Olentangy Orange football team broke even this season, but coach Zebb Schroeder believes his program will come out ahead in the long run.

He expects dealing with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its protocols will help the Pioneers battle their way through other hurdles in the future.

“It was a wacky and different season, but I thought our kids handled it well,” said Schroeder, who completed his seventh season. “Our work ethic and discipline really showed, and they took the changes in stride. We had films or meetings outside and we never used the locker room all year. They made the most of that.”

The Pioneers finished 4-4 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Central Division. Then as the sixth seed in the Division I, Region 3 playoffs, they lost to visiting and 11th-seeded Upper Arlington 17-10 on Oct. 9 in the first round. Orange had defeated UA 31-14 on Sept. 18 in league play.

“I think that playing in the new conference showed us how little the margin for error was when you play against top teams like that,” said Schroeder, whose team won OCC-Buckeye titles the previous two seasons but finished third this fall behind Dublin Coffman (5-0) and Liberty (4-1). “Playing against really good teams will only make us better in the long run. It was a hard learning experience, but we will be able to spin that into a positive.”

Senior quarterback Josh Laisure led the Pioneers in rushing with 338 yards and four touchdowns on 89 carries, and he was 85-for-132 passing for 1,070 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. A Wright State baseball recruit, Laisure was first-team all-district as a punter and first-team all-league.

Senior wide receiver Caden Konczak (first-team all-district and all-league) caught 27 passes for 542 yards and six touchdowns. He is Orange's career leader in receiving yards (1,236) and receptions (91).

Seniors Jadon Ampadu (LB; 26.5 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) and Joey Guagenti (DB; 28 tackles, 1 interception) were second-team all-district and first-team all-league. Senior defensive lineman Tyler Yanka (11.5 tackles) was special mention all-league.

“The season wasn’t as successful as we would have liked, but we did learn how to deal with the difficulties (of the pandemic protocols),” said Guagenti, a Dayton recruit. “We learned how to react to adversity when things weren’t always working out for us.”

Other top performers included senior defensive linemen Dylan Dempsey (second-team all-league; 23 tackles) and Tanner Lester (special mention all-district, second-team all-league; 23 tackles, 2 sacks), senior wide receiver Julian DiSabato (23 catches, 219 yards, 1 TD) and senior linebacker Luke Brandt (32 tackles). Seniors Carter Bluvol, Ryan Minott and Dom Silvestri helped anchor the offensive line.

“The senior class had a lot of kids that played a lot of football and played in a lot of meaningful games over the past few years,” Schroeder said. “We’re losing a bit of everything from the backfield to the offensive and defensive lines. They were unselfish and played in the trenches. We have to find some guys to fill those roles.”

Junior linebacker Luke Houston (honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league) had a team-leading 41 tackles, and junior tight end Rico Franklin (honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league; 5 catches, 81 yards, 1 TD) was a key blocker.

Junior kicker Jack Behre (second-team all-district) was 3-for-6 on field goals and 16-for-17 on extra points. Junior defensive back Jordan Rudolph (honorable mention all-district, special mention all-league) had 26.5 tackles and a team-high four interceptions.

Junior linebacker Junior Sarpong had 23.5 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery, and junior running back Isaac Campbell rushed for 245 yards on 80 carries. Junior wide receiver Andre Robinson had seven catches for 66 yards and one score, and juniors Jake Burre, Aidan McDonald and Ty Miller are expected back on the offensive line.

Junior linebacker Brandon Fedio had 21.5 tackles and one interception. Junior Jake Werling didn’t play after a preseason injury and should compete to play quarterback next year.

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Record: 4-4 overall

OCC-Central standings: Dublin Coffman (5-0), Liberty (4-1), Orange (3-2), Upper Arlington (2-3), Hilliard Bradley (1-4), Hilliard Davidson (0-5)

Seniors lost: Luke Applegate, Jadon Ampadu, Jordan Bennett, Carter Bluvol, Luke Brandt, Dylan Dempsey, Joey Dimeo, Julian DiSabato, Joey Guagenti, Aidan Hill, Geoffrey Kaminski, Caden Konczak, Josh Laisure, Tanner Lester, Colin McNay, Ryan Minott, Antonio Mitchell, Logan Shearer, Ryan Swiger, Dom Silvesteri, Isaiah Wilder and Tyler Yanka

Key returnees: Jack Behre, Jake Burre, Isaac Campbell, Brandon Fedio, Rico Franklin, Luke Houston, Connor Kemmerling, Ty Miller, Andre Robinson, Jordan Rudolph, Junior Sarpong and Jake Werling

Postseason: Lost to UA 17-10 in first round of Division I, Region 3 playoffs