Pickerington North takes out Pickerington Central for first time
The Pickerington High School North football team spread the ball around on offense and played dominating defense to beat host Pickerington Central 37-0 on Sept. 28.
It was the first win in the series for the Panthers in six tries.
"This is a special win for this program without a doubt," North coach Tom Phillips said. "I am so proud of this team I could burst. We pitched a shutout and we put up 460 yards of offense against our rival, a great team and great program. It was in front of an excited overflow crowd and it was definitely a playoff atmosphere."
The Panthers improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division, while the Tigers fell to 3-2 and 2-1.
North also sent a message to the remainder of its opponents that it'll take more to beat the Panthers than focusing on trying to stop senior running back Godwin Igwebuike.
"We all knew (the Tigers) were keying on me, but I believe in my teammates and knew they would step up and do their thing," said Igwebuike, who rushed for 86 yards on 19 carries and turned a screen pass into a 32-yard touchdown that gave North a 16-0 lead in the third quarter. "We knew we had to open things up a bit in the passing game. I'm so proud of my teammates and this team."
Senior quarterback Mason Olszewski was 18-for-27 passing for 273 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 65 yards on 13 carries.
Perhaps the most impressive thing in the passing game was six Panthers had receptions and one of those was not leading receiver Jamie Hence.
"Their game plan was to take Godwin away and we got around that," Olszewski said. "All of my receivers are reliable and have good hands. I'm not much of a thrower, but somehow it worked tonight.
"I just pretty much run around back there. It's what I do best. My O-line hates me, I can tell you that."
Against Central, that extra time with the ball was crucial.
"We had a hard time getting to the quarterback and when we did, he eluded us," Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said.
"When you have an elusive quarterback and pretty good offensive line that keeps you from getting to him, that's a winning combination. They hit some passes on us."
The Tigers continued to try to bring pressure throughout and that set up the biggest play of the game. With Olszewski on the bench with leg cramps, Zeph Miller came in and threw the screen pass that Igwebuike turned into a touchdown.
"They were blitzing on nearly every play, really pushing hard," Igwebuike said.
"We knew we could hit them with a screen and the blockers set it up perfectly. I caught it at a good angle, made a few moves and scored the touchdown."
North senior tight end Jake Butt, playing in front of his future college coach, Michigan's Brady Hoke, caught a 13-yard touchdown that began a 21-0 fourth quarter.
"This is absolutely amazing," Butt said. "We've been close to this before and losing last year left a sour taste in our mouth. I couldn't never dream of this feeling. I've never felt something this good before.
"Our quarterback did a great job checking to audibles. A lot of the plays were hot routes. He was reading the defense and we took what was there. They were playing me eight yards off the ball and that gave us room for the 7-yard outs. The key in the game was that we have multiple threats on offense."
Tanner Gillum had three catches for 75 yards, including a 51-yard scoring pass from Olszewski.
"I love the senior leadership we have," Phillips said. "They are humble kids who play for the team. That's why it works. If you take something away, we've got talented kids at other positions who can make up for it. None of them really cares who it is making the plays as long as the team is successful.
"It's the same philosophy defensively. They know if they play their positions, their teammates will be doing their jobs, too. We don't have anybody out here trying to do too much. That's what every coach dreams about and it's what we have here right now."
The Panthers play host to Reynoldsburg on Friday, Oct. 5, and the Tigers play host to Grove City.
"This definitely was a playoff atmosphere," Phillips said. "We stayed composed and there were times where maybe we could've got caught up in situations. We had 61 penalties in the first five games and we had five (against Central).
"In this type of a game, under these circumstances, to play with composure was fantastic. We need to continue that the rest of the way. We need to build on this."