The Westerville Central High School football team forced a five-way tie for first place in the OCC-Cardinal Division with a 26-20 win over visiting Marysville on Friday, Sept. 30.
Central, Marysville, Dublin Jerome, Olentangy and Westerville South are tied for first in the league at 2-1.
South lost to Dublin Jerome 34-31 in double overtime and Olentangy beat Olentangy Liberty 13-7 on Friday, Sept. 30.
The Warhawks took a 16-0 lead early in the second quarter and appeared to be headed to a lopsided win before the shorthanded Monarchs staged a comeback.
Marysville was playing without leading rusher Kody Davisson, who missed the game with a high-ankle sprain sustained in a 14-13, triple-overtime win over Olentangy on Sept. 23.
With Davisson out, senior Tse Lam rushed for 38 yards on 19 carries.
Central opened the scoring on its first possession when senior quarterback Cody Kondas connected with Max Shawver for a 36-yard touchdown with 7 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The extra point was blocked, but Central kicker Hunter Robinson kicked a 36-yard field goal on the first quarter’s final play for a 9-0 lead.
Marysville committed three turnovers in the first half.
“You have to give credit to our kids for coming back, but the last thing we talked about in pregame was the team that makes the fewest mistakes wins these games and we made three big ones right off the bat,” Marysville coach Jeff Gafford said.
After Kondas hit Malek Lundy for a 43-yard touchdown two minutes into the second quarter, Marysville began its comeback.
Quarterback Connor Devine hit tight end Craig Runyan for a 26-yard touchdown to close the Monarchs’ deficit to 16-7.
The Monarchs had a chance to pull closer before halftime after they had a first-and-goal at the Central 2, but they were unable to score. Lam was stopped on fourth-and-1 by Josh Gardy.
“We have to get the ball in the end zone at the end of the first half,” Gafford said. “Kody is out, but our line is 255-plus (pounds). Our backup running back should be able to get into the end zone behind our offensive line.”
Robinson’s 21-yard field goal gave the Warhawks a 19-7 lead with 1:42 left in the third quarter and Gardy’s 5-yard touchdown run with 7:57 left in the game pushed the lead to 26-7.
It didn’t take Marysville long to respond, as Kyle Hites took the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown and Devine hit Runyan for a 12-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 26-20 with 3:05 remaining.
Central sealed the win when Kondas connected with Shawver for an apparent 76-yard touchdown, but the score was nullified because of an illegal block near the goal line, giving the Warhawks a first down at the Marysville 15. The Warhawks ran out the final 1:30.
“This would have been a game two years ago that we would have found a way to lose,” Central coach John Magistro said. “You have to give our kids credit. I thought we used the clock well. We sort of dumped it on our defense at the end.”
MARYSVLLE 0 7 0 13 -- 20
WESTERVILLE CENTRAL 9 7 3 7 -- 26
WC--Shawver 36 pass from Kondas (kick failed)
WC--Robinson 36 FG
WC--Lundy 43 pass from Kondas (Robinson kick)
M--Runyan 26 pass from Devine (Mazza kick)
WC--Robinson 21 FG
WC--Gardy 5 run (Robinson kick)
M--Hites 70 kick return (pass failed)
M--Runyan 12 pass from Devine (Mazza kick)