For Pickerington High School North senior offensive lineman Steven Crane, the hype involved in Friday's matchup against Pickerington Central at Crew Stadium sometimes bordered on annoying.

For Pickerington High School North senior offensive lineman Steven Crane, the hype involved in Friday's matchup against Pickerington Central at Crew Stadium sometimes bordered on annoying.

Beginning with the first day he joined the team in early August, the Panthers' hopes of avenging a 38-7 loss last year against Central has been one of their biggest rallying cries.

An intra-district rivalry is just one of the things that Crane and teammates Chris Fuqua and Lucas Mason will experience for the first time after they transferred from Grove City following the failure of the South-Western City School levy Aug. 4.

In addition to the students, Grove City coaches Matt Jordan and Jeff Rice joined North's coaching staff, led by coach Tom Phillips.

"On the first day I came here, people were talking about how we're going to be playing in Crew Stadium and that they can't wait for the Central game," Crane said. "I'm glad we never had to play Westland, Franklin Heights or Central Crossing because without a doubt we would have dominated them, but it's very exciting after what everybody says about Pickerington Central."

Each of the transfer students are key contributors for North, but it hasn't been easy.

Jordan, who remains a teacher at Grove City, plans to return as the Dawgs' coach if the next levy passes Nov. 3. He is serving as a varsity assistant and helping run the offense. Rice was the wide receivers and defensive backs coach at Grove City and is serving as the wide receivers coach.

"I didn't know if we could work it all out, but they've all fit in really well," Jordan said. "I could have asked every single one of my seniors to come over here, but looking at it last year, we thought Pickerington North would be one of the teams to beat, and (Crane, Fuqua and Mason) didn't really take anybody's spots. They've all three kind of just filled spots that were already (open)."

While Fuqua and his family moved to Pickerington, both Crane and Mason declared themselves adults and have taken up residence in the district.

Crane, a 6-foot-5, 340-pound offensive lineman, spent the first two days of fall practice at Pickerington North and the third day at Westfall before deciding that North was where he wanted to be.

Both Crane and Mason, a Division I honorable mention all-district defensive lineman a year ago, must fill out paperwork proving that they make $350 per month and that they are paying rent.

All three were key players a year ago when the Dawgs beat North 12-7 in the regular-season finale to clinch a playoff berth.

"I'll be honest: Nobody really wants to transfer their senior year, but this is by far the best opportunity I had," said Crane, a right tackle who has received college interest from Ohio University, Eastern Michigan and Louisville. "When it failed in May, Westfall was my backup plan. But after I came here, I could tell that the guys were no different than when I was at Grove City. The thing I love the most is that I expected the guys to give me crap about us beating them last year, but we actually all joke about that game. Everybody understands our situation."

On most weekday evenings, Mason leaves football practice and goes directly to his job at Sonic in Lancaster.

The coaches call Mason "the freak" because of his ability to hit opponents while playing on the defensive line. He and Fuqua are among the team's leading tacklers.

Mason is living with quarterback Sean Flaherty and his family.

"It was kind of a last-second decision for me to come over because I kind of act off of impulse a lot," Mason said. "I heard that coach Jordan and Fuqua and Crane went there, and two or three days after the levy failed, I decided to come. I had a job in management in Lancaster, so I've had to fill out all kinds of paperwork.

"I have had the thought that maybe it isn't what's best for me with me getting beat up the way I have been, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and I'm not dead yet. There's a great group of guys here."

Fuqua was a second-team all-district defensive end last year. At 6-4, 330, he lists West Virginia and Cincinnati among his top college choices.

He served as one of the Dawgs' vocal leaders on defense and has continued that role at North. The Panthers' defense posted its fourth shutout since the team's inaugural 2003 season in a 43-0 victory over Mifflin on Sept. 11.

"It's been great so far," Fuqua said. "I came over here kind of feeling bad, but it ended up being kind of a good thing. I think we've been doing pretty well so far."