At least some of the talk entering the Friday, Oct. 28, game between the Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg high school football teams focused on the Raiders still having a chance for their first playoff appearance since 2001, albeit a slim one.
The host Tigers wasted no time reminding everyone they were just as hungry to achieve their goals — a sixth consecutive OCC championship and a first-round home playoff game — and reassert their dominance in the rivalry.
And the Tigers did so quickly.
Roger Lewis, who has committed to Ohio State, returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and later returned a punt 44 yards for a score as the Tigers won 42-14 and clinched the outright OCC-Ohio Division title.
It was Central’s seventh consecutive win after opening the season with losses to Cincinnati St. Xavier and Cincinnati Moeller, and its 10th in a row over the Raiders.
“Starting off 0-2, people counted Pickerington Central out and started talking about all the things we couldn’t do,” Lewis said. “We’re 7-2 now and we’re back. … It’s always a hyped game when we played Reynoldsburg. We had to start fast.”
The Tigers, who finished 7-0 in the OCC-Ohio, scored 21 points in the first 4 minutes, 40 seconds. Nick Jensen-Clagg threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Meyer after Raiders running back Kumar Collins lost a fumble on his team’s third offensive play. After another Reynoldsburg fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Devone Penick had a 28-yard touchdown run.
Jake Kincaid had an 11-yard touchdown run and Jensen-Clagg tossed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Jake Raymond before halftime for a 35-0 lead. By then, Central had outgained Reynoldsburg 212-51, held the Raiders to no passing yards and forced three turnovers.
“We’re to the point of the season where some teams probably are starting to slow down and their minds are going on to winter sports and other things. Here, we feel like we’re hitting our stride,” Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. “I don’t know if we’ve peaked yet. I hope not. But we’re starting to click.”
Central used three quarterbacks, nine running backs and two receivers to amass 241 total yards. Reynoldsburg, which finished 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the OCC, finished with 139 yards.
“We’ve done a passing game by committee and running back by committee,” Sharrett said. “We shuffle a lot of guys in and run different packages on defense. We try to find guys who do something well and get them in that position. We’ll rotate 20 or 21 guys on defense and 17 or 18 on offense. You pick and choose. If they double-team Roger, we’ll hit Jake Raymond on a slant pass. If they crowd the box, we can get our running backs outside.”
Reynoldsburg lost its last two games, against Central and Gahanna, by a combined score of 75-14 to fall out of playoff contention.
Raiders quarterback Jordan Aekins threw fourth-quarter touchdowns of 8 and 17 yards to Mykel Traylor-Bennett. Collins had 94 yards on 22 carries to pass 1,000 yards for the season.
“We lost to a team tonight that’s as good as any team in the state. I’ve been saying that for a few weeks, and I truly believe it,” Reynoldsburg coach Buddy White said. “They do a tremendous job, and they have some very good athletes. We’re not going to hang our heads about anything. The kids battled, and they didn’t leave anything out there.”
REYNOLDSBURG 0 0 0 14 -- 14
PICKERINGTON CENTRAL 21 14 7 0 -- 42
PC--Lewis 95 kickoff return (Raymond kick)
PC--Meyer 15 pass from Jensen-Clagg (Raymond kick)
PC--Penick 28 run (Raymond kick)
PC--Kincaid 11 run (Raymond kick)
PC--Raymond 37 pass from Jensen-Clagg (Raymond kick)
PC--Lewis 44 punt return (Raymond kick)
R--Traylor-Bennett 8 pass from Aekins (Hendrick kick)
R--Traylor-Bennett 17 pass from Aekins (Hendrick kick)