Offense, defense and special teams: the Pickerington High School North football team dominated all three en route to a 42-0 win over visiting Gahanna in an OCC-Ohio Division game on Oct. 19.
The Panthers improved to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio, while Gahanna fell to 7-2 and 4-1.
Running back Godwin Igwebuike led North's offense, rushing for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries and catching three passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, and Jake Butt, Dylan Weigel and Geno Rollo led the way for the Panthers' defense, which limited the Lions to 58 total yards.
Other key contributors were Mason Olszewski, who helped the Panthers win the field-position battle with his punting that often was into the wind, and Roland Lapido, who returned a punt 48 yards for a touchdown.
“This was a huge win for us because we wanted redemption for last year when they beat us (24-14 in week nine) to keep us from making the playoffs,” Butt said after he and several teammates celebrated the victory by making mud angels near midfield. “We got some turnovers early, put them in a hole and the rain certainly helped us. We also did a lot of film preparation and played our best defensive game this season.”
Gahanna fumbled on its second play from scrimmage and on the next play Olszewski tossed a 29-yard scoring pass to Igwebuike to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead.
North's Matt Myers then recovered a fumble during the ensuing kickoff return, setting up a 6-yard touchdown run by Igwebuike. The score capped a six-play, 38-yard drive to make it 14-0 with 8 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first quarter.
“They controlled the trenches, made the plays when they had to and they were the better team tonight,” Gahanna coach John Snoad said. “Their big plays hurt us and we were unable to generate any sustained offense. They’re a heck of a football team. All the credit goes to them.”
The Lions had two first downs in the first half, including one by penalty.
“We came with pressure but also shut down screens,” Rollo said. “This was an important payback. They took the playoffs from us last year. This year, we got them back.”
Igwebuike’s third touchdown came on a 59-yard run that made it 21-0 with a minute left in the first quarter. He had 99 yards rushing after one quarter and 106 in the first half, as North held a 21-0 lead at halftime.
“That (early momentum) was probably the key to the game,” North coach Tom Phillips said. “I am so proud of our defense. I know (Gahanna’s) defense came in with better stats, but we played great tonight. With the field conditions and their passing attack, there’s no doubt we were coming after their quarterback with five, six and sometimes seven guys. The credit goes to our defense and our execution on special teams.”
North tacked on 14 points in the third quarter to make it 35-0, as Jamie Hence scored on a 22-yard pass from Olszewski and Lapido tightroped the sideline, broke a tackle and spun away from another defender to score on his punt return.
Backup quarterback Zeph Miller closed the scoring with a 76-yard run with 1:41 left.
The victory helped ease some of the sting from the loss to the Lions last season, when the Panthers finished one spot out of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs.
“This was 365 days of pain waiting for this one,” Phillips said. “I watched two game films all summer long, Central and Gahanna. I can’t tell you how many times I watched the film.”
PN--Igwebuike 29 pass from Olszewski (Holland kick)
PN--Igwebuike 6 run (Holland kick)
PN--Igwebuike 59 run (Holland kick)
PN--Hence 22 pass from Olszewski (Holland kick)
PN--Lapido 48 punt return (Holland kick)
PN--Miller 76 run (Holland kick)