Tigers (8-2) Cardinals (11-0)
It's not time to expect an all-out aerial assault, but the Pickerington High School Central football team found comfort in its ability to complement its running game with an efficient passing attack during its Division I, Region 2 playoff opener.
For senior wide receiver Andrew Meyer, it's been a long time coming.
Meyer was expected to be one of the team's top offensive threats but got hurt in the preseason. Then in his return Oct. 4 against Pickerington North, he suffered a concussion.
He finished the regular season with just two receptions.
In Central's 38-28 win at third-seeded West Chester Lakota West in the first round of the playoffs Nov. 9, Meyer caught four passes for 39 yards to help his team establish a balanced attack and win the time-of-possession battle 26:07-21:53.
The 14th-seeded Tigers will seek similar success when they face a Cincinnati Colerain team known for controlling the game with its option offense. The game is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at Welcome Stadium in Dayton.
Sixth-seeded Colerain improved to 11-0 by beating 11th-seeded Springboro 41-14 in its playoff opener Nov. 9.
The Central-Colerain winner plays second-seeded Cincinnati Moeller or seventh-seeded Cincinnati Elder in a regional semifinal Nov. 23.
"We're definitely more versatile than we've ever been," Meyer said. "We can go spread or we can go power. It's really exciting."
Against Lakota West, Central ran for 281 yards as Isaiah Richmond and Tawain Gordon both scored two rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Colby Simkins completed 13 of 18 passes for 200 yards.
Colerain has given up an average of 18.5 points despite playing only three teams with winning records.
Still, the Cardinals have a Division I recruit in senior linebacker Tegray Scales (6-foot-2, 212 pounds) and outsize the Tigers on both sides of the ball, according to Central coach Jay Sharrett.
Scales has 12 Division I offers, including eight from BCS schools.
Colerain senior quarterback Kelvin Cook (5-10, 170) has attempted just 54 passes, but 11 of his 31 completions have gone for touchdowns.
Cook, who has offers from the Citadel, Georgia Southern and Indiana State, has rushed for a team-best 1,466 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The top running backs for Colerain are seniors DeTuan Smith (1,459 yards, 16 touchdowns) and T.J. Dula (393 yards, 4 touchdowns) and junior Jordan Asberry (617 yards, eight touchdowns). Asberry averages 15.8 yards per carry.
Central gave up 370 yards against Lakota West but just seven second-half points.
"(Colerain runs) the triple option, and they run it to perfection," Sharrett said. "Just when you think you've got their run taken care of, they hit you with a down vertical pass. This is one of those games that will be very similar to what we've just dealt with in that they have a clear size advantage on us, but that's something we're used to."