Olentangy at Olentangy Orange: Braves, Pioneers look forward to intense opener

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Senior running back Luke Applegate and Orange will be looking for their fourth win over Olentangy in five seasons when the teams meet Friday, Aug. 28.

Emotions always run high during a season opener, but expect the adrenaline to be on overdrive when the Olentangy football team opens Friday, Aug. 28, at Orange.

The school-district rivals have played 11 times, with Orange holding a 7-4 advantage. The Pioneers have won three of the last four meetings, including 28-14 last fall.

"Whether it's (Olentangy) or Liberty, you know each other so well," Orange coach Zebb Schroeder said. "You know how each staff coaches the game and you know the kids on both sides are going to play so hard."

Both teams are coming off postseason appearances. The Pioneers lost to eventual Division I state champion Pickerington Central 44-0 in a Region 3 semifinal to finish 10-2, and Olentangy finished 7-6 with a 35-14 loss to Toledo Central Catholic in the Division II, Region 7 final.

Olentangy coach Mark Solis said success in any opener comes down to the usual suspects.

"I think we have to contain our emotions," he said. "The team that's most fundamentally sound, the team that makes the least number of mistakes and the team that's in the best shape is going to win. Those are the things we are focusing on."

The Braves have several returning skill players to help out senior quarterback Kaden Doup, a first-year starter. Doup will have three capable targets in senior wide receivers Caleb Gossett (45 catches, 546 yards, 6 TDs), Daniel Kelly (32 catches, 318 yards, 3 TDs) and Jace Middleton (57 catches, 856 yards, 7 TDs).

Also, senior running back Landon Johnson rushed for 466 yards and five scores on 85 carries last fall.

Orange senior defensive back Joey Guagenti could be a key performer against the Braves' passing attack. He had 38 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery last season.

"I think both teams are full of anticipation and ready to compete and have a chance to measure themselves against someone else," Solis said. "It's going to come down to mistakes and turnovers and the team that has the least amount of those is going to win."

The Pioneers expect to have a first-year senior starter at quarterback in Josh Laisure. He also has a standout receiver in senior Caden Konczak, a third-year starter who caught 39 passes for a team-high 584 yards and six scores last season.

Senior running back Luke Applegate rushed for 324 yards on 77 carries with three touchdowns.

Gossett also plays safety for the Braves and had four interceptions last season. Middleton, an outside linebacker, had three.

"You know that it's going to be so emotional, so the approach we try to take is to have our kids do things that they have done 10,000 times," Schroeder said. "We have to focus inward and make sure we're continuing to fix things that need fixed. We're excited to play them, but we can't lose track of the sight that we have to keep getting better."

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WEEK 1

OLENTANGY at OLENTANGY ORANGE

*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30

*Last meeting: 2019, Orange

28-14

*Top Braves: Kaden Doup (QB), Jason Feasel (OL/DL), T.J. Gadd (OL/DL), Caleb Gossett (WR/DB), Ethan Hand (TE/DL), Landon Johnson (RB/LB), Daniel Kelly (WR/DB), Jace Middleton (WR/LB) and Toby Wilson (OL)

*Top Pioneers: Luke Applegate (RB), Jadon Ampadu (LB), Dylan Dempsey (DL), Joey Guagenti (WR/DB), Luke Houston (RB/LB), Caden Konczak (WR), Josh Laisure (QB), Colin McNay (LB) and Ryan Minott (OL)

Senior receiver and safety Caleb Gossett is among the top returnees for Olentangy, which finished 7-6 and reached the Division II, Region 7 final last season.