Senior quarterback Tyler Grassman earned plenty of attention this season, while leading the Gahanna Lincoln High School football team to nine wins and its first playoff appearance in four years.
But when Pickerington Central and Gahanna met in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal on Saturday, Nov. 12 at Ohio Wesleyan University, it was the Central duo of quarterback Nick Jensen-Clagg and running back Devone Penick who led their team to a 41-10 victory.
Jensen-Clagg completed seven of 14 passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns, as the Tigers improved 9-2.
Penick rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries to lead a rushing attack that piled up 319 yards on 43 attempts against the Lions, who finished 9-3.
Central will play Hilliard Davidson in the Region 3 final on Nov. 19. Davidson beat Central 13-6 in the Region 3 final a year ago.
“Our quarterback made some nice throws in key situations, and our running game had a good one-two punch with Penick and (Billy) Eakins (72 yards on 13 carries),” Central coach Jay Sharrett said. “Really, though, our line did a great job of blocking them, because we primarily run a one-back offense so there’s usually no secret as to who is getting the ball.”
The Lions opened with an eight-play, 83-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 33-yard field goal by Grassman.
But Central answered with an 11-play, 67-yard touchdown drive entirely on the ground, as Jensen-Clagg scored from 2 yards out.
After Gahanna was pinned back at its 4-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, Central’s defense backed the Lions up to their 1 and the Tigers took over at the Gahanna’s 39 following a punt.
Two plays later, Jensen-Clagg hit Roger Lewis with a 34-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-3 midway through the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Central’s Marcus Milton made a diving interception at Gahanna’s 39 to set up nine-play touchdown drive that ended with an 18-yard pass from Jensen-Clagg to Nick Raymond to make it 20-3 at halftime.
“Some people were saying our line was our biggest problem, and they took that as a challenge and played real well tonight,” Jensen-Clagg said. “That’s why we were able to make big plays.”
The Tigers opened the second half with a five-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, as Penick scored on a 30-yard run.
Penick also had touchdown runs of 36 and 7 yards in the second half.
“I was just patient and our wide receivers got downfield and did a good job of blocking for me,” Penick said.
Grassman finished 19-for-35 passing for 176 yards and ran for 47 yards on 15 carries. Julian Lowe had seven catches for 74 yards for the Lions.
“They took care of the line of scrimmage and that was the big thing,” Gahanna coach John Snoad said. “Our kids kept fighting, though. There was no quit from them.”
GAHANNA 3 0 7 0 -- 10
CENTRAL 14 6 14 7 -- 41
G--Grassman 33 FG
PC--Jensen-Clagg 2 run (Raymond kick)
PC--Lewis 34 pass from Jensen-Clagg (Raymond kick)
PC--Raymond 18 pass from Jensen-Clagg (kick failed)
PC--Penick 30 run (Raymond kick)
G--Albrecht fumble recovery in end zone (Grassman kick)
PC--Penick 36 run (Raymond kick)
PC--Penick 7 run (Raymond kick)