Whether he lines up at quarterback in a wildcat offense, atrunning backin an I-proformation or at receiver in a spread attack, Gahanna Lincoln High School senior Earl Cunningham is usually a threat to break a big play.

Whether he lines up at quarterback in a wildcat offense, atrunning backin an I-proformation or at receiver in a spread attack, Gahanna Lincoln High School senior Earl Cunningham is usually a threat to break a big play.

Last Friday ina42-31 loss to Lancaster, Cunningham had 10 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 76 yards and a touchdownon 18 carries and even passed for 39 yards.

Pickerington Central coach Jay Sharrett said the No. 1 priority for theTigers' multiple-front defense will be to contain Cunningham when they play Fridayat Gahanna in an OCC-Ohio Division game.

Central nipped Pickerington North 7-6 last Friday to improve to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio. Gahanna is 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the league.

"They run a pretty diverse offense and they've got a number of good athletes, but (Cunningham) is the first guy we'll need to identify defensively because he does everything well," Sharrett said. "When he touches the ball, we'll need to get to him quickly and tackle well because he's a quick, shifty player."

Gahanna coach John Snoad said his offense will continue to switch formations and try to get the ball to Cunningham in open spaces.

But he said it's equally important that quarterback Tanner Zwelling distribute the ball to the Lions' other skill players as well, particularly running back Rashawn Ponder, who ran for more than 100 yards in each of the past three games.

Snoad understands that it's dangerous to be too predictable against Central's defense, whichblitzes from different positions nearly every play.

The Tigers' defense is led by strong safety Eilar Hardy, free safety Josh Kristoff, cornerback Malcolm Pannell and outside linebacker Willie Tatum.

The Tigers haveforced nine turnovers and allowed 579 yards rushing on 189 carries and 342 yards passing.

Outside linebacker Wuan Tatum, who has missed Central's last two games with a sprained ankle, likely will play Friday. Inside linebacker Zach Clouse, who missed three games and then played only a handful of plays before reaggravatinghis knee injury last Friday, isn't expected to play at Gahanna.

"Pickerington Central puts a lot of heat on the backfield and takes long-developing plays out of your arsenal," Snoad said. "Most teams who have had success against their defense haverun right at them, but we're not as big as those teams so we have to be more creative. We're going to use a mix of the spread and I-formation to move people around and try to get our best athletes the ball in space. Earl Cunningham has been carrying the load for us but everybody is going to need to do their part for us to move the ball in this game."

After running for 34 yards on26 carries and producing 125 total yards last Friday, the Tigers' multiple-formation offense will attempt to get its perimeter running attackback on trackagainst the Lions' 3-4 defense.

Tyler Hammond has rushed for 355 yards and six touchdowns on 72 carries and Willie Tatum has run for 99 yards on 19 attempts.

Grant Hammond has completed 39 of 66 passes for 562 yards and three touchdowns and backup Nick Jensen-Clagg has completed nine of 14 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown.

Pannell has 17 receptions for 332 yards and Kristoff has six catches for 90 yards.

"If we can run to the outside we will because we've got some fast running backs," Centralleft guardBill Hinterschied said. "If they take that away, we've got to be ready to runup the middle and throw the ball."

The Lions' defense -- led by backs C.J. Bryant and Casey Goad,linebacker Nick Earland linemanDarien Moody -- is looking to bounce back after giving up 477 yards last Friday.

Snoad said Gahanna will need to play better run defense on the perimeter after getting burned for several big plays by Lancaster running back Nathan Carpenter, who had 323 yards and four touchdowns on 10 carries.

"We didn't play well on the edges and Carpenter ran untouched at times," Snoad said. "We've got to be more disciplined than we were last Friday, but we've got to be aggressive as well. We don't like to sit back and respond. We like to come right at you."

Next game

PICKERINGTON CENTRAL

at GAHANNA

•When: 7:30 p.m., Friday

•Last meeting: 2008,Central 40-7

•Central (4-1 overall, 1-1 in OCC-Ohio) to date: Defeated Orange Lutheran (Calif.) 28-4; def. Springfield 28-19; def. Westerville North 28-0; lost to Lancaster 17-14; def. Pickerington North 7-6

•Gahanna (3-2 overall, 1-1 in OCC-Ohio) to date:Lost to DeSales 38-0; def. Lima Senior 59-7; def. Mason 14-3; def. Newark 55-0; lost to Lancaster 42-31

•Top Tigers: Grant Hammond (QB), Tyler Hammond (RB), Eilar Hardy (SS), Josh Kristoff (FS), Malcolm Pannell (CB/WR), Willie Tatum (OLB) andWuan Tatum (OLB)

•Key Lions: C.J. Bryant (DB), Earl Cunningham (RB), Nick Earl (RB/LB), Brice Frentzel (WR), Casey Goad (DB), Darien Moody (DL), Rashawn Ponder (RB) and Tanner Zwelling (QB)