The ability to secure a Division I, Region 2 playoff berth isn't completely in its hands with two regular-season games remaining, but the Pickerington High School Central football team has been doing its part the last two weeks.
The Tigers bounced back from a 49-14 loss Oct. 4 at Pickerington North to edge Grove City 32-29 on Oct. 11, and they had no trouble getting past Newark 35-12 on Oct. 18.
Keeping their eye on the current task will be the Tigers' next challenge as they travel Friday, Oct. 25, to Groveport.
While the Tigers are 5-2 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division, Groveport is 1-7 and 1-4. The Cruisers' only win was over Newark, 52-35 on Oct. 11.
Groveport hasn't beaten Central since 1990.
"I know a couple people from (Groveport) from junior high and little league and they've got some good athletes," senior running back Isaiah Richmond said. "We have to practice like we've been practicing. We don't overlook anybody."
Richmond played a major part in making sure nothing unexpected occurred against Newark.
The Tigers earned their 12th consecutive win over the Wildcats as Richmond rushed for 226 yards and four touchdowns. He had scoring runs of 62 yards in the first quarter and 69 yards in the third.
After Newark returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Central scored the next 35 points.
Isaiah Thompson added 96 yards rushing on seven carries and Tawain Gordon had 50 yards and one touchdown on 10 rushes.
Central, which attempted just four passes against Newark, will try to continue that success on the ground against a Groveport defense that gave up 276 yards rushing and 350 total yards in a 35-7 loss to Pickerington North on Oct. 18.
Richmond believes an offensive line that includes seniors Josh Clouse (C), Brennan Dudziak (T) and Vince Lewis (G) has led the way to the team's rushing success.
"Our line was running off the ball well and I didn't even have to make anybody miss (against Newark)," Richmond said. "We've started to get a lot of confidence in our running game.
"Our coaches always have said that we can't focus on the (Pickerington) North game. We just have to continue because we still have a chance at a playoff spot."
Howell fitting in perfectly for North
North moved one step closer to the OCC-Ohio championship and a playoff berth in Region 2 with its win over Groveport.
The 8-0 overall and 5-0 league record the Panthers have put together is exactly what junior running back Brett Howell was hoping for after he transferred to the school during the middle of his sophomore year.
Howell grew up in Pittsburgh but has split time between that city and Pickerington the last few years.
"I came to a couple playoff games last year because my dad was already living here," Howell said. "It's been real fun being a part of the team."
Howell has settled into the role of power back to complement the running abilities of senior quarterback Zeph Miller and the quickness of 5-foot-7 senior running back Jabree Lather.
Against Groveport, Miller rushed for 114 yards and four touchdowns on nine carries, Lather had 13 attempts for 116 yards and Howell added 46 yards and one touchdown on eight carries.
North, which led the Cruisers 28-7 at halftime, plays host to Gahanna on Friday, Oct. 25. The Lions are 3-5 overall and 3-2 in the league.
North leads the all-time series 3-2.
The Lions have gone 2-2 since inserting sophomore Mason Blancett at quarterback in their 48-10 win over Newark on Sept. 27.
In a 34-14 loss to Grove City on Oct. 18, Blancett completed 16 of 28 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown, but Gahanna was outscored 20-7 in the fourth quarter.
"People thought we weren't going to be as good this year, but our mindset is that we're more explosive because offensively we have a bunch of guys that can contribute," Howell said. "I feel the position we are in right now is great."