Playoffs - Division I, Region 3 Final

Pickerington North ‘pushed’ by loss to Grove City in regular season finale


The Pickerington High School North football team lost its bid at the outright OCC-Ohio Division championship and a perfect regular season when it lost to Grove City 13-10 on Oct. 26 in its regular-season finale.

That game proved to be what senior quarterback Mason Olszewski called a “wakeup call” that helped the Panthers accomplish their latest feat — the first regional championship in program history. On Nov. 17 at Ohio Wesleyan University, North beat Hilliard Davidson 21-0 to capture the Division I, Region 3 title.

“It was almost a good thing that we lost to Grove City because overall it really pushed us,” Olszewski said. “It’s amazing (winning the regional title). Words can’t describe it.”

The Panthers are 12-1 heading into a state semifinal against Cincinnati Moeller on Nov. 24 at a site to be announced. Moeller beat Cincinnati Colerain 24-21 on Nov. 17 to improve to 10-3.

Offensviley since the loss to Grove City, North has averaged 23 points during the playoffs to more closely resemble the attack that averaged 44 points during the season’s first nine weeks. Defensively, North has given up two touchdowns in three games. It posted shutout wins over Pickerington Central (24-0 on Nov. 3) and Davidson and beat Hilliard Darby 24-14 on Nov. 10 in a regional semifinal.

In the win over Davidson, North held first-team all-district running back E.J. Jennings to 41 yards on 17 carries. Jennings played with a broken bone in his right foot. The Panthers also held D.D. Clark to 98 yards on 24 carries.

After the Panthers had to settle for a share of the OCC-Ohio title with Pickerington Central, Warren Stoddard acknowledged the thrill of his team hoisting the regional championship trophy.

“It was one of our goals,” said Stoddard, who recovered a fumble that led to a 30-yard touchdown run by Zeph Miller and a 14-0 third-quarter lead. “We knew we could do it. We knew we were a better team than we showed at Grove City. We just tried to rally around each other and go deep into the playoffs.”

Although coach Tom Phillips doesn’t know for sure whether the Grove City loss provided motivation for the playoffs, he couldn’t be happier with what’s occurred the past three weeks.

“I don’t know if it gave us an advantage,” Phillips said. “We’re three weeks past that spot and we’re excited about where we’re at.”