Plenty on line in Pickerington Central's finale
The way Pickerington High School Central football coach Jay Sharrett sees it, the playoffs are starting a week early for both his team and Gahanna.
A win Friday, Oct. 26, at Gahanna is expected to advance the Tigers to the postseason for the 12th time in 14 seasons, including for the seventh consecutive season.
The Lions are looking to make the playoffs for the second year in a row and for the eighth time in 15 seasons, and a win over Central likely would clinch that.
Sharrett, whose team has played on grass at its home stadium three of the past four weeks, believes much will be determined by which team can take better advantage of Gahanna's turf field.
Central is 6-2 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division, and Gahanna is 7-2 and 4-2.
"It's basically a 10th-week playoff game," Sharrett said. "Just from breaking down film, they're very explosive and we need to get used to playing on the turf at their place."
Perhaps the biggest thing the teams have in common is both struggled against Pickerington North. The Tigers fell 37-0 on Sept. 28 and Gahanna lost 42-0 on Oct. 19.
Central attempted only four passes in its 44-7 win over Groveport on Oct. 19, although quarterback Colby Simkins has completed 38 of 92 passes for 738 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions.
The top weapons in Central's offense have been Brent Walton with 581 yards and 10 touchdowns on 87 rushes, Tawain Gordon with 433 yards and three touchdowns on 52 carries and Greg Basalyga with 313 yards and four touchdowns on 49 attempts.
Brenden Doyle has a team-leading 10 catches, while Cris Reyes has eight receptions and Eric Marshall has seven.
Led by defensive lineman Granyl Smith and linebacker Mitchell Rowell, Gahanna had been giving up an average of just 75 yards rushing before allowing North's Godwin Igwebuike to rush for 106 yards last week.
"Godwin broke some big ones and we weren't generating any drives," Gahanna coach John Snoad said. "Pickerington Central likes to run outside and they run a million formations with some play-action. They run it deep occasionally with some screens and are pretty multiple offensively. Obviously on defense we'll have to step up and stop their running game. They can run on anybody and we've got to contain. It comes down to fundamentals."
Gahanna has attempted to utilize its speed with a spread passing game centered on senior quarterback Alec Tuohy and wide receivers Kevin Randolph and Valquez Davis.
The Lions' offense was limited to 58 yards against Pickerington North, but Tuohy has thrown for more than 1,100 yards and both Randolph and Davis have more than 30 receptions.
Central has allowed just 20 points in three games since its loss to Pickerington North and has given up an average of 12.3 points during its six victories. Basalyga and Taco Charlton have led the defense.
"(The Lions have) got some size. You can tell coach Snoad has had them in the weight room," Sharrett said. "We're getting better each week and we're playing hard.
"We're starting to get a little hop in our step. The one big thing is that we're tackling a lot better and our blocking has gotten better."