Princeton's triple option next for Pickerington North
The Pickerington High School North football team will face an unfamiliar offense when it goes against Cincinnati Princeton's triple option on Friday, Aug. 31, in its home opener.
However, the Panthers had to stop a shifty running game during their 50-22 win over St. Charles on Aug. 24, and that's the approach coach Tom Phillips planned to use in preparing a defense more accustomed to battling pro-style and spread offenses for what it will take to keep Princeton's offense in check.
St. Charles was led in the opener by Jonathan Radney, who rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Sean Fitzmartin, who scored on a 71-yard reception.
"I'm glad we (played St. Charles) because we're going to see four (running backs) just like (theirs)," Phillips said. "I know we're going to bend, but we can't break. We've got to play disciplined, gap-controlled defense. I thought our gap responsibility was OK, but we were not making the tackle.
"(The option) is a different offense, and our kids haven't seen it. (Princeton is) fast and they run a shotgun, pistol veer option, so we know they're going to have four backs to stop. It's a different offense to prepare against, and this is going to be a challenge for our staff."
Princeton quarterback Tyrell Gilbert rushed for 47 yards but was held to 5-for-17 passing for 119 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 24-14 loss to Clayton Northmont in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown Aug. 25 at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.
Running back Demarco Thomas, who rushed for 900 yards and had 15 catches a year ago as Princeton went 7-3 but missed the Division I, Region 4 playoffs by three spots, had 49 yards on nine carries with one touchdown against Northmont.
The Vikings' other touchdown was scored by wide receiver William Blevins, who had two catches for 52 yards. His 43-yard touchdown reception came with 3 minutes, 52 seconds to go with Princeton trailing 24-7.
"You've got to hit the quarterback on every play," junior linebacker Dylan Weigel said of stopping the option. "You've got to be more physical and you've definitely got to make the big play. (You've) also got to have communication to stop the option, knowing who's got the quarterback and who's got the pitch man.
"I'm really excited about the game since it's our first week of school. It's going to be an amazing atmosphere."
North led St. Charles 27-12 at halftime and pulled away during the second half, mostly behind the feet of running back Godwin Igwebuike.
Igwebuike scored on a 15-yard second-quarter run, added touchdown runs of 7 and 52 yards in the second half and finished with 260 yards rushing on 20 attempts. He also had two catches for 40 yards.
Quarterback Mason Olszewski was 7-for-13 passing for 164 yards, including a 91-yard touchdown pass to Jaye Williams.
Defensively, Weigel, lineman/linebacker Jake Butt and Olszewski were among the standouts, according to Phillips. Olszewski, who plays in the secondary, returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown and Weigel had 18 tackles.
The Panthers likely will be without senior offensive lineman Chris Huhn, a Western Kentucky University recruit, for the next two games and possibly longer because of an injury.
"We don't have three scrimmages like some other teams, so the biggest thing for us right now is improving our communication," Phillips said. "We have to have 11 hats on the same page. With (the game against St. Charles) being our third competition for the offensive line, they all made huge improvements from (the second scrimmage) to game one. Our offensive line played up to expectations."