The Pickerington High School Central football team overcame five turnovers and a 17-point deficit to win 28-23 at Gahanna on Oct. 26.
The victory gave the Tigers a share of their seventh consecutive league championship after Grove City upset Pickerington North 13-10 and marks the fifth season in a row that they’ve beaten the Lions.
Central, which improved to 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division, clinched a playoff berth in Division I, Region 3. Gahanna finished 7-3 and 4-3.
“It feels great,” Central senior Taco Charlton said. “We got a couple big defensive stops and our defensive line started to terrorize in the trenches.”
Charlton was a big factor in the victory for the Tigers, who fell behind 17-0 and trailed 17-7 at halftime.
With 6 minutes remaining, Central quarterback Colby Simkins endured a heavy rush to hit Charlton for a 30-yard touchdown pass for the winning points.
Central’s Greg Basalyga ran for a 45-yard touchdown with 10 minutes, 45 seconds to go in the third quarter to make it 17-14.
The Tigers then took their first lead with 7:47 to go in the third quarter when Simkins hit Jae’Sean Tate for a 33-yard touchdown pass. That completed a 76-yard drive that was aided by a pass interference call.
The Lions re-took the lead with 1:46 left in the third period, however, when Geoffrey Helms II ran in from 1 yard. Quarterback Alec Tuohy completed a pair of 35-yard passes to Jeremy Walls on the possession.
An interception by the Lions’ Malon Smith gave his team the ball to begin the fourth quarter, but Central’s defense led by Charlton and Basalyga kept Gahanna from moving the ball again.
The Lions had taken a 7-0 lead with 9:44 left in the opening quarter when Tuohy ran for a 16-yard touchdown.
Another fumble by Central set up Gahanna’s second touchdown, a 20-yard pass from Tuohy to Peyton Ross, and the Lions made it 17-0 on a 35-yard field goal by Collin Blaney with 26.8 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Tuohy completed 17 of 38 passes for 204 yards but Gahanna was limited to minus-6 yards rushing. Tuohy was stopped for negative rushes 12 times, including eight times in the second half.
“We did some amazing things and made some huge plays, but I’m just numb right now,” Gahanna coach John Snoad said.
G--Tuohy 16 run (Blaney kick)
G--Ross 20 pass from Tuohy (Blaney kick)
G--Blaney 35 FG
PC--Walton 5 run (McMillin kick)
PC--Basalyga 45 run (McMillin kick)
PC--Tate 33 pass from Simkins (McMillin kick)
G--Helms 1 run (kick blocked)
PC--Charlton 30 pass from Simkins (McMillin kick)