One year removed from an appearance in a Division I state semifinal, the Pickerington High School North football team picked up where it left off with a 20-0 victory over visiting St. Charles on Aug. 30 to open the season.
The Panthers took control early on both sides of the ball as the offense scored on its first three possessions and the defense forced two turnovers and held the Cardinals out of the red zone until late in the game.
“It was a good team effort tonight,” North coach Tom Phillips said. “I was very proud of our defensive effort, and our offense was able to do a lot of good things against a very good team like St. Charles.”
The Panthers’ first drive ended with a 46-yard field goal by senior Karch Holland to cap a 14-play drive that covered 57 yards in 5 minutes, 23 seconds.
A team trying to build off a 6-4 season a season ago, St. Charles had flashes of success with quarterback senior Ryan Bailey operating out of the shotgun and tailback junior NiQuille Bell running the wildcat.
North’s defense countered with inside pressure, leading to Romaeo Whitlow’s interception deep in Panther territory near the end of the first quarter.
North’s offense, led by senior quarterback Zephaniah Miller, took advantage and extended its lead to 10-0 a minute into the second quarter.
Two runs by junior Brett Howell gained 33 yards and set up a 2-yard play-action touchdown pass from Miller to senior Justin Childers. Howell gained 66 of the Panthers’ 199 rushing yards.
“We just wanted to open up the bubble game, because they were dropping their safeties back,” said Miller, who threw for 103 yards and rushed for 97. “Once they brought them up, we were able to drop the fade and get the touchdown. The defense did great tonight, so we just wanted to do our part and score.”
The game’s pivotal moment occurred on the Cardinals’ ensuing possession. Facing a fourth-and-2 from its 28 yard-line, St. Charles elected to go for the first down. North’s defense flushed Bailey, who threw for 121 yards, out of the pocket and forced an errant pass.
North needed only three plays to move ahead 17-0. Miller side-stepped three Cardinals down the far sideline for a 22-yard score with 8:16 left in the half.
“The line did a great job opening up gaps all night, and we had a lot of success running the ball with them leading the blocks,” Miller said.
St. Charles responded by piecing together their best drive of the first half with swing passes and wildcat runs. But after three plays from the North 22-yard line gained only a yard, a 38-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide left.
“I thought our defense played very well,” St. Charles coach Jeff Pharion said. “We have to take care of the football and block to the whistle. (North) found a very big hole in our interior line, and they kept delay blitzing when we rolled out or even when we were in the pocket. They also threw a lot of flat routes and bubble screens, which proved to be successful moves for them. But I thought we played hard and played for four quarters.”
North’s defense preserved the shutout with a goal line stand midway through the fourth quarter.
Dylan Weigel led the defensive effort for North, recording nine tackles, including 1.5 sacks. Alex Reigel added eight tackles.
“Our mentality the whole night was that they weren’t going to score,” North senior defensive lineman Geno Rullo said. “We want 10 shutouts, and we have one so far.”
N -- Holland 46 FG
N ‑‑Childers 2 yard pass from Miller (Holland kick)
N -- Miller 22 run (Holland kick)
N -- Holland 47 FG