Despite giving up 21 points in the second quarter and seeing a late rally come up short in an opening 38-33 loss at Centerville on Aug. 30, the Pickerington High School Central football team never has doubted its defensive capabilities.
The Tigers got back on track during a 39-14 win over visiting Middletown on Sept. 13 after having a second-week bye and hope to take that momentum into OCC-Ohio Division play.
On Friday, Sept. 20, Central opens the league schedule at Lancaster.
"We definitely had a bad taste in our mouth (after losing the opener) and it drove us," senior two-way lineman Vince Lewis said. "We missed a lot of tackles in that game and I think we addressed that in practice. More than anything physical, the camaraderie we have with this group this year is really good."
While seniors Jordan Pieczynski (DB) and Isaiah Richmond (LB) and junior Eric Marshall (DB) are the most experienced players on defense, Lewis is among a group of seniors that also includes cornerback Rudy Stefanitsis and safety Vinnie Allen.
Lewis, who starts at left guard on offense, missed all of last season after tearing his left ACL during a preseason practice.
Lancaster often ends up in tight games against the Tigers.
Although Central has won the last three meetings, it escaped with a 14-10 win last season and lost 17-14 to the Golden Gales in 2009 for its only regular-season loss.
The Gales beat Canal Winchester 37-14 on Sept. 13 and are 2-1.
While Lewis is confident in a Tigers offensive line that also includes seniors Brennan Dudziak, Josh Clouse and Tyler Boyd and junior DaVon Hamilton, Lancaster's top player is senior right guard and defensive tackle Kyle Trout.
Trout, who is 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, has verbally committed to Ohio State.
Central scored 36 points during the middle quarters against Middletown. Senior quarterback Colby Simkins was 7-for-17 passing for 125 yards with two touchdowns. Senior running back Tawain Gordon rushed for 83 yards, and Richmond had two scoring runs and one receiving touchdown.
Lancaster dominated Canal Winchester with 403 yards of offense, including 327 rushing. Running back Isaiah Dexter rushed for 107 yards and three touchdowns.
The Gales had 572 yards in a 57-7 victory over Logan on Aug. 30 as a backfield led by running backs Jared Thompson and Jerry King and quarterback Alex Butsko rushed for 520.