North changes direction of rivalry
One of the more prominent signs displayed by Pickerington High School Central football fans during the Tigers' game Oct. 4 at Pickerington North read: "This will never be your town."
The Panthers still trail the all-time series 5-3, but with three consecutive wins over the Tigers, including a 49-14 shellacking in the latest matchup, they proved there is room in the spotlight for their program as well.
Although Central previously earned blowout wins in 2008 (38-7) and 2010 (42-0), North defeated the Tigers 37-0 during the regular season and 24-0 in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs a year ago.
"They like to say that we're 'one-hit wonders' referring to what we did against them last year," said North senior wide receiver/safety Justin Childers, whose team is 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division. "When we started playing Central (in 2008) they were whooping up on us. I know one of the scores was 42-0, and it was at our place. Last year we did it for that senior class and this is what we wanted for the 2014 senior class. We wanted to prove that North is ready to win every year."
To build on its sweep of Central last season, North took a page from its playbook from a year ago.
North's first play Oct. 4 featured what it calls a "quad format." The Panthers lined up four receivers on one side of the field and one on the other, and senior quarterback Zeph Miller found an open Childers a few yards past the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field.
Childers then sprinted down the right sideline for a 63-yard touchdown.
The play also was used for a 49-yard reception from Miller to senior Jordan Chambers later in the first quarter to set up North's third touchdown, a 10-yard run by Jabree Lather that made it 21-0.
Miller and Childers hooked up for a 57-yard touchdown with 5 minutes, 6 seconds to go in the opening quarter as North raced to a 28-0 lead.
Up to that point, Central had run just 11 plays.
Childers remembers using the multiple-receiver formation a few times during the playoffs last season, including on his 55-yard touchdown catch in a 26-21 loss to Cincinnati Moeller in a Division I state semifinal.
Central, which fell to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Ohio, beat North 24-21 in week five of the 2011 regular season and eventually earned a state runner-up finish while the Panthers missed the playoffs by one spot.
That loss provided his team with motivation, according to Miller.
"When we were sophomores we lost to them 24-21 and that hurt us," he said. "We wanted to get out the next two years and beat them."
After Miller's first touchdown pass, he ran for a 43-yard touchdown to give North a 14-0 lead with 10:04 left in the first quarter.
Miller added scoring runs of 8 and 4 yards and Lather ran for a 13-yard touchdown in the second quarter as North led 49-7 at halftime.
Miller completed 10 of 16 passes for 255 yards, with Childers catching three for 133 yards and Tanner Gillum, Chambers and Quincy Storey all adding two receptions.
Miller also led North in rushing with 87 yards on 12 attempts. Lather had 71 yards on 12 carries and Brett Howell had six rushes for 49 yards.
North piled up 489 yards of offense.
"It's all about the buildup of that game," North coach Tom Phillips said. "This has probably been the best group we've had in handling that emotion. It's very special to compete and to win this game."
Central's first-half performance against North was the continuation of struggles it has had at the beginning of games this season.
In a 38-33 loss to Centerville on Aug. 30, the Tigers trailed 21-7 at halftime and were behind by as much as 31-7.
On Sept. 28, Central trailed 10-0 before coming back to beat Reynoldsburg 28-17.
The Tigers finished with 293 total yards against North as senior quarterback Colby Simkins was 14-for-28 passing for 191 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions and senior running back Isaiah Richmond rushed 13 times for 75 yards and one score. Senior wide receiver Vinnie Allen had five catches for 77 yards and one touchdown.
"This has kind of been our season," Central coach Jay Sharrett said. "We just have not played a good first half all season. When you play a good team like North you have to clean that up. We just weren't sharp.
"It would have been very easy to roll over, but I thought we played a good, hard fourth quarter. There's no 49-point touchdown."