It took every bit of scratching and clawing, but Tyler Lichter’s one-yard run with 6:53 left in the game was the difference as Olentangy Orange outlasted visiting Big Walnut 21-14 in OCC-Capital play Friday night.
Lichter’s touchdown concluded a 17-play, 80-yard drive that took over seven minutes off the clock. He converted a third-and-one on the previous play to keep the drive alive.
“That was huge,” he said. “We were talking on the sideline about how we weren’t getting it done — we were underachieving. So we said, ‘we got to go out there and step it up and do our job,’ and we did that.”
Lichter rushed for 71 yards on 35 carries to lead the Pioneers on the ground.
“Tyler’s been big all year,” Pioneers coach Zebb Schroeder said. “He runs so hard and sometimes he runs all different types of fronts. Tonight I was really proud of him for getting the tough yards there in the second half. He had some big-time runs against a physical defense when it counted.”
Big Walnut overcame a 14-0 hole that started with a 95-yard drive before the half. David Hunt scampered 22-yards for the touchdown. John Sutton completed a 26-yard pass to Josh Seabrook on the drive. The two also connected on a six-yard pass play on third down.
“We knew it was going to take time,” Eagles coach Joe Weaver said. “It was going to take effort and we had to be patient and keep grinding.”
Evan Garcia caught a short pass from Sutton and turned it into a 20-yard touchdown, capping it with a dive into the end zone to finish off the Golden Eagles’ first drive of the second half and tie the game.
“It was huge — it was a heck of a play,” Weaver said. “It was a good throw, a good catch and a heck of an effort to get into the end zone.”
Garcia led Big Walnut with 76 yards on the ground on 16 carries. Hunt ended up with 25 yards on seven attempts, including the touchdown.
The Pioneers started strong, going 65 yards on 19 plays on their first series, capped by Lichter’s seven-yard touchdown run.
“This is a great team win all-around,” Lichter said. “The offensive line played great, the defense played lights-out and the coaches got us ready all weak watching film. I couldn’t be happier right now.”
Orange converted two fourth downs on the series — the former a six-yard pass from J.D. Dayhuff to Connor Ryan and the latter a 15-yard completion to Emerson Milner. He also had a 10-yard reception on the drive.
Dayhuff completed a 15-yard pass to Matthew Collins on the Pioneers’ first play from scrimmage. The completion put Collins at 1,011 career yards, making him the first receiver in school history to go over 1,000 yards.
Orange took over after an 11-yard punt at the BW 36 and turned it into an 11-yard touchdown pass from Dayhuff to Milner. Michael Sargent came up with a key 12-yard reception on third down to keep the drive alive.
Dayhuff completed 13-of-22 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown and Milner, Sargent, Collins and Ryan each caught three passes. Milner’s 36 yards led the way.
The Pioneers close out the season at Worthington Kilbourne and Big Walnut finishes with Franklin Heights in Sunbury. Both games kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.