HAMLER — Patrick Henry understood what was at stake when it squared off with Liberty Center Friday night in a Northwest Ohio Athletic League clash.
The Patriots went into the league matchup knowing the winner of the contest would have history well on their side when it comes to winning the league title. The winner for 15 of the past 16 meetings went on to become the NWOAL champion.
The Patriots took that information and ran (and passed) with it on their way to a resounding 54-14 triumph over the Tigers before a packed crowd at Patriots Stadium.
Photo gallery: Liberty-Center at Patrick Henry
PH running back Tobey Hernandez rushed for 169 yards on 18 carries, including touchdown runs of 4 and 37 yards to lead PH (4-0, 3-0 NWOAL) to a lopsided win over LC (3-1, 2-1). PH's Gabe Jones delivered more than enough production passing, completing 7 of 17 passes for 160 yards. Two of his completions went for touchdowns.
"Tonight, we won it at the line of scrimmage, and they had turnovers," PH coach Bill Inselmann said. "This rivalry, you never know what's going to happen."
Jones said linemen such as Jake Carrizales, Keith Palmer, and Colt Pettit proved to be the catalysts for the with their blocking up front.
"I think we played great," he said. "The line won the line of scrimmage and the passing game was on tonight. Overall, the defense played great and we had a great game tonight."
The Tigers led 7-0 with a 38-yard touchdown from Josh Drain to Kaleb Pohlman early in the first quarter.
The Patriots defense came through with four turnovers and limited the Tigers to two scoring drives and 153 total yards. Drain found Pohlman for a 25-yard touchdown in the third quarter for LC's other score.
"This was an old-fashioned butt-kicking," LC coach Rex Lingruen said, of the defeat to the Patriots.
The Patriots tallied 442 total yards during the game, including 282 on the ground.
Yet, it wasn't PH's offensive explosion that led to the Patriots pulling off an impressive 40-point rout of LC. The performance by the Patriots on defense tilted the outcome heavily in their favor, particularly during the early moments of the second half.
After taking a 21-7 lead into halftime, the Patriots proceeded to open the second half with two defensive scores to make it clear this would not be the Tigers' night.
PH cornerback Galen Powers gave the Patriots a 27-7 lead when he intercepted a Drain pass at midfield and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown with 10:32 remaining in the third quarter.
PH's defense came right back and turned LC's next possession into another Patriots' scoring opportunity when Patriots defensive end Jake Carrizales scooped up a mishandled loose ball and returned it 23 yards for a TD to give PH a 34-7 advantage with less than five minutes left to play in the third quarter.
"I just had to hustle over from the backside and then I just used my instincts," Carrizales said of his interception and return for a TD.
Inselmann also credited his team's defensive play — which also included an interception by Derek Hoops and Hernandez — for not allowing the Tigers to get on track.
"It's apparent we did pretty good on defense," he said.
Lingruen thought the game changed midway through the second quarter when what looked like a possible sack of Jones near PH's end zone was eventually ruled by the officials as an incomplete pass. The Patriots proceeded to march 82 yards on 15 plays with Jones finding Kollin Spence on a 7-yard TD completion to make it 21-7 with 1:14 remaining in the first half.
"Stuff like that happens, but unfortunately that was a key play," Lingruen said, of the incompletion determined by the officials. "Coming out at half we still had an opportunity, but we [commit the two turnovers] and the game basically at that point, unfortunately for us, was over."
Contact Donald Emmons at: email@example.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.