The Pickerington High School North football team is 4-0 for the first time in program history.
The Panthers defeated visiting Groveport 38-21 on Friday, Sept. 16, in the OCC-Ohio Division opener for both teams.
North wasted little time taking the lead, as Groveport quarterback Shane Denny was sacked on the third play from scrimmage, fumbling at his own 3-yard line.
The Panthers recovered and running back Godwin Igwebuike scored on a 3-yard run on the next play, giving North a 7-0 lead just 1 minute, 10 seconds into the game.
“Our kids played real well on defense,” North coach Tom Phillips said. “We just played an angle defensive front and they had trouble adjusting.”
The Cruisers were forced to punt on their next possession, and North scored again, capping an eight-play, 63-yard drive with an 18-yard run by quarterback Zach Olszewski. On the drive, Olszewski completed both pass attempts for 25 yards.
On their next possession, the Panthers drove 81 yards in nine plays, capping the drive with a 2-yard run by Igwebuike with 9:26 remaining in the second quarter to take a 21-0 lead.
North forced another punt on Groveport’s ensuing possession and returned the punt to the Cruisers’ 14-yard line, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Alston Robertson to increase the lead to 28-0 three minutes later.
“We thought we could run the ball, but they stopped it and also pressured us,” said Groveport coach Tim Brown, whose team dropped to 2-2. “The early turnover hurt us and took away our confidence.”
With the exception of one drive, Denny was pressured heavily by North’s defense in the first half and was sacked five times in the half. Groveport’s Wyatt Hikins caught a 10-yard touchdown pass late in the first half to get the Cruisers to within 28-7 at the half.
Denny finished 21-of-46 passing for 245 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
North’s Tabeal Radney intercepted Denny early in the third quarter and returned the ball 40 yards for a touchdown to extend the Panthers’ lead to 38-7. Igwebuike also intercepted Denny in the quarter.
Olszewski enjoyed protection for most of the game and finished 8-of-14 passing for 146 yards. He also rushed for 49 yards and one score.
“The defense set up the offense perfectly tonight,” Olszewski said. “They have faith in us and we have faith in them.”
North finished with 362 total yards. Igwebuike gained 82 yards on nine carries and Robertson rushed for 31 yards. Seth Gamby caught four passes for 102 yards.
“We have so many weapons and get the ball to everyone,” Olszewski said. “Everyone is a playmaker and when we spread the ball around, the defense can’t focus their pressure on just one person.”
Groveport added two scores in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
GROVEPORT 0 7 0 14 -- 21
PICKERINGTON NORTH 14 14 10 0 – 38
PN--Igwebuike 3 run (Monhollen kick)
PN--Olszewski 18 run (Monhollen kick)
PN--Igwebuike 2 run (Monhollen kick)
PN--Robertson 1 run (Monhollen kick)
G--Hikins 10 pass from Denny (Jones kick)
PN--Monhollen 25 FG
PN--Radney 40 interception return (Monhollen kick)
G--Smith 76 run (Jones kick)
G--Denny 5 run (Jones kick)