Olentangy Liberty at Olentangy Berlin: Patriots, Bears set for first meeting

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Bennett Lawrence and the Bears reached the Division II playoffs last year in the program's second season.

The Olentangy Berlin football team will start the season with a first.

The Bears will play host to Liberty on Friday, Aug. 28, in their first school-district rivalry game.

The Patriots have been one of the premier programs in central Ohio, qualifying for the Division I postseason in each of the past six seasons and winning regional championships in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Last fall, they finished 10-2.

Berlin doesn't have the same pedigree, but it is only beginning its third season. The Bears finished with their first winning record last year, at 6-5, and qualified for their first postseason, losing to Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 44-36 in the opening round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs.

"We were originally supposed to play DeSales (in the opener before the regular season was shortened to six games), so the scheduling gods have not been kind to Olentangy Berlin," Bears coach Mark Nori said. "But that's how you get better. You have to play great teams and play to their level of competition, handle your own and get a couple of wins here and there."

Steve Hale has been the only coach Liberty has had since the school opened in 2003. He knows his teams are always primed to play another school-district opponent.

"The emotions are always higher when the kids know each other," he said. "There are a lot of great kids in this district."

Senior Aidan Kenley returns at running back for Liberty after rushing for 477 yards and six touchdowns on 92 carries during an injury-riddled season. As a sophomore, he ran for 1,044 yards and three touchdowns.

Senior wide receiver Cam Barcus had 45 receptions for 622 yards and five touchdowns. He will be a safety net for senior Mitch Fields, a first-year starting quarterback.

"We're excited to play them, and we know it's not going to be an easy road," Nori said. "They have great athletes and tradition."

Berlin has a quarterback who has started for two seasons in senior Jacob Moeller. Last year, he completed 147 of 268 passes for 2,051 yards with 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions and rushed for 160 yards and six touchdowns on 66 carries.

Moeller was 21-for-37 passing for 304 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in Berlin's playoff loss.

Senior wide receiver Justin Rader returns after catching 19 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown.

"It's going to be a great challenge," Hale said. "They will be incredibly well-coached and very talented. We will need to be mistake-free to be successful."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

WEEK 1

OLENTANGY LIBERTY at OLENTANGY BERLIN

*When: 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28

*Last meeting: First meeting

*Top Patriots: Cam Barcus (WR), Jacob Bonacci (DL/TE), Mitch Fields (QB), Aidan Kenley (RB), Dom Magistrale (WR), Tyler Rosselli (RB/WR), Drew Thornton (DB), Matthew Wrather (OL) and Brian Yamokoski (LB)

*Top Bears: Antonio Alonso (OL/DL), Jon Harder (OL/DL), Bennett Lawrence (WR/LB), Ethan Lee (RB/LB), Liam McGreevey (WR/LB), Jacob Moeller (QB), Colin Pethtel (WR/DB), Justin Radar (WR/DB) and Cole Troyer (OL/DL)

Liberty running back Aidan Kenley breaks loose on a touchdown run against Pickerington North last season. The Patriots will open at Berlin on Friday, Aug. 28, in the first meeting between the programs.