During a 38-21 loss to Cincinnati St. Xavier on Sept. 4 at Ohio Stadium, the Pickerington High School Central football team struggled to slow the Bombers' balanced attack while giving up a season-high 353 yards.

During a 38-21 loss to Cincinnati St. Xavier on Sept. 4 at Ohio Stadium, the Pickerington High School Central football team struggled to slow the Bombers' balanced attack while giving up a season-high 353 yards.

Senior lineman Jacoby Boren is expecting the Tigers' defense to fare better when Central and St. Xavier meet in a Division I state semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.

"St. Xavier is the most physical team we've played and their running game is one of the toughest that we've faced this season," Boren said. "But we've changed a lot since the last time we played them and we're definitely not going to be intimidated by them. In the beginning of the season, we weren't as much in unison as we are now and we got out to an 0-2 start. But we've kept improving ever since then and we're a completely different team now."

The winner advances to the state championship game against Cleveland St. Ignatius or Toledo Whitmer at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton.

The Tigers beat Hilliard Davidson 24-0 in the Region 3 final Nov. 19 at Ohio Wesleyan to win their 10th consecutive game and improve to 10-2. This will be the third Division I state semifinal for Central, which lost to Cincinnati Elder 24-10 in 2008 and St. Ignatius 48-8 in 1999. The Tigers reached the Division II state final in 2006 and lost to Piqua 26-7.

The Bombers defeated Cincinnati Moeller 35-21 in the Region 4 final Nov. 19 to improve to 10-3.

St. Xavier is averaging 156.9 rushing yards and 109.7 passing yards per game.

Senior quarterback Griffin Dolle is 119-for-218 passing for 1,364 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Dolle spreads the ball to a slew of receivers, including senior Trey Kilgore (37 catches, 338 yards, three touchdowns), junior Kevin Milligan (35 catches, 382 yards, three scores) and sophomore Ryan Frey (24 catches, 249 yards, one touchdown).

Senior tailback Conor Hundley has rushed for 1,085 yards and 19 touchdowns on 209 carries.

Hundley rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries in the first meeting with Central, while Dolle was 12-for-22 passing for 190 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown to senior receiver Evan Ballinger.

"They run and pass very effectively, and they're huge on the line," Central coach Jay Sharrett said. "We need to stack up their running game so they don't get into second-and-short situations, because that's when they are really effective at throwing the ball downfield."

Boren said the Tigers will change their defensive front nearly every play, much like they did while holding Davidson to 101 yards rushing on 34 carries and 109 total yards.

Central forced four turnovers in the first meeting with St. Xavier. Linebackers Greg Basalyga and Jake Kincaid and cornerback Marcus Milton have accounted for three turnovers apiece this season.

"(Defensive coordinator Jeff) Lomonico always does a great job of changing things up in games to keep offenses on their heels," Boren said.

Central committed a season-high five turnovers in the first matchup with St. Xavier, which has forced 28 turnovers in 13 games, with senior linebacker Nathan Gerbus (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries), senior cornerback Jalyn Sutton-Jackson (three interceptions) and junior safety Joseph Barrett (two interceptions, one fumble recovery) leading the way.

Gerbus, who has a team-high 110 tackles, returned an interception 66 yards for a touchdown in the Region 4 final.

"One of the things we pride ourselves on is having no turnovers, so we need to be stronger with the ball this time," Sharrett said.

Sharrett said the Tigers' offense will utilize some different blocking schemes after rushing for only 75 yards on 25 carries in the first meeting. Billy Eakins had a 78-yard touchdown run, meaning Central was held to minus-3 yards on its other 24 carries.

"St. Xavier is very difficult to move off the ball because their line is big, long and rangy," Sharrett said. "So we'll need to use some motion and shift guys around to find the right angles to run the ball on them."

Quarterback Nick Jensen-Clagg likely will need to complete some passes downfield to stretch St. Xavier's defense and free up running lanes for Eakins (867 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 123 carries) and Devone Penick (656 rushing yards and 10 scores on 89 carries).

Jensen-Clagg is 97-for-168 passing for 1,597 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Jake Raymond (31 catches for 603 yards and four touchdowns), Roger Lewis (19 catches for 422 yards and seven scores) and Eakins (18 catches for 255 yards) are Central's top receivers.

In the first meeting, Jensen-Clagg was 12-for-22 passing for 179 yards with touchdowns of 43 and 39 yards to Lewis. He also threw three interceptions.

"If we need to throw the ball fives times in a row or run the ball five times in a row to move the ball, that's what we'll do," Sharrett said. "But I think we'll need to have a good blend of both in this game because St. Xavier has good athletes all over the field."