Patrick Henry quarterback Gabe Jones runs the ball during the Division V playoff opener against Northwood High School.
Through the years Liberty Center vs. Patrick Henry on the football field has produced some thrilling games.
This year's contest in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League was no different and a repeat could be in store when they collide again in a Division V regional semifinal Friday at Perrysburg.
Sophomore Kaleb Pohlman booted a 20-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the game to give the Tigers a 3-0 victory in the NWOAL battle.
As it turned out, that victory allowed the Tigers to claim an outright league championship and left the Patriots wondering what could have been.
Now, Patrick Henry will have a second crack at Liberty Center. This time, more than NWOAL bragging rights are at stake.
"Everyone knows once you're in the playoffs you either win and keep on or you go home," Liberty Center coach Rex Lingruen said.
Lingruen expects another close encounter for the Tigers (11-0), who beat Carey 28-0 to their first-round playoff game, while the Patriots (9-2) posted a 49-28 victory over Northwood.
"It's always exciting when we're playing our rivals," said Lingruen. "Patrick Henry, it's always an exciting game."
Defense ruled in the first meeting. The Patriots' last possession was halted when LC defensive back Josh Drain intercepted a pass by quarterback Anderson Okuley near midfield with only a few seconds left.
"It was a really hard-fought game, but I think both teams have improved since then," Lingruen said. "We're a lot better and they're a lot better now."
Tigers running back Tony Bais gained 138 yards on 29 carries in the win over PH. He finished the regular season leading the NWOAL in rushing (147 carries for 999 yards, nine TDs), was kept out of the end zone.
The Tigers rolled up 276 yards on the ground against Carey with fullback Sean Westhoven leading the way with 111 yards on 22 carries, including touchdown runs of 4 and 1 yards. Zach Niner rushed for 81 yards on 10 rushes including a 51-yard TD run.
Westhoven finished second in the league in rushing with 955 yards on 156 carries, including a team-best 14 touchdowns.
The Patriots enter on a seven-game winning streak. A season-opening 37-34 loss to Eastwood is their only other loss.
Patrick Henry responded after their loss to Liberty Center by averaging 42 points per game and has scored no less than 34 points in any other game this season. Running back Lucas Rosebrook has been a key figure in the push into the playoffs after scoring a NWOAL-leading 23 touchdowns while finishing fourth in rushing with 863 yards on 121 attempts.
"I could see it being any type of game," PH coach Bill Inselmann said. "There's no doubt our two defenses are our strengths. I could see it being another low-scoring game if both teams don't commit turnovers.
"Obviously, the first time we played this year it was a hard-fought game," Inselmann said. "Even though it was week four it was for the league championship."
Gabe Jones had 13 TDs and 486 yards rushing on 79 carries in the regular season.
Both team rely more on the run game than passing. LC quarterback Josh Drain completed 32 of 71 pass attempts for 591 yards (5 TDs) in the regular season, while PH's Anderson Okuley completed 43 of 83 passes for 827 yards (4 TDs).
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @demmonsblade