A first-half quagmire turned into a wild finish as the Grove City High School football team slipped, slid and sloshed its way to a 12-7 victory over visiting Pickerington North on Friday.

North was driving deep into Grove City territory with a chance to take the lead in the closing seconds, but Dawgs outside linebacker Brian Senesac sacked quarterback Sean Flaherty to end the game and preserve the win.

"We are really proud of our defense," said Dawgs first-year coach Matt Jordan, whose team finished the regular season 6-4 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division as Pickerington Central won the league at 7-0. Grove City also likely secured a Division I, Region III playoff berth. "They've done a great job all year. They've been our rock all year and they just did a great job again tonight."

"That's just how our defense has played all year," Grove City linebacker Cody Funk said. "We just rise to the occasion and do what we need to do."

The Dawgs held the Panthers to 27 total yards of offense through the first three quarters, but turnovers helped North climb back into the game in the fourth quarter.
With Grove City holding a 6-0 lead and trying to run out the clock, the ball slipped out of Dawgs quarterback Mike Mayers' hand on a pass attempt. It was recovered by the Panthers' Alec Lamancusa and returned to the Grove City 21.

Five plays later, Gianni Lynch scored on a 7-yard run to put North up 7-6 after the point after.

"What I was impressed with was the second half," said North coach Tom Phillips, whose team finished 5-5 and 3-4. "Our kids came back and fought. Our defense once again played their hearts out and they set up the score."

The Dawgs stormed right back after a short kickoff, marching 64 yards in just more than a minute to recapture the lead on a 23-yard run off right tackle by Keith Moore. The two-point attempt pass failed, but Grove City led 12-7.

The Panthers had two more chances. Their next drive stalled with a turnover on downs, but they got the ball right back after Mayers fumbled the exchange from center as the Dawgs tried to run out the clock.

"We didn't have things going offensively in the first half, but our defense played their hearts out," Phillips said. "The biggest difference I saw in the game is that (Grove City) was able to move the ball, they made the big plays and catches.

"We weren't making the catches early."

Mayers led Grove City on 21-for-37 passing for 228 yards, one touchdown and an interception, and Moore was the Dawgs' leading rusher with 53 yards on 15 carries.
Jordan Sturgell had nine catches for 94 yards, and Kory Martin added 74 yards and a touchdown on seven catches.

North, which managed only 107 total yards, was paced by Lynch's 29 yards on 12 carries. Flaherty endured a tough game, completing 12 of 29 pass attempts for 60 yards and an interception.

PICKERINGTON NORTH 0 0 0 7 - 7
GROVE CITY 0 6 0 6 - 12
GC-Martin 10 pass from Mayers (kick failed)
PN-Lynch 7 run (Flaherty kick)
GC-Moore 23 run (pass failed)