The Pickerington High School North football team handled the first of four 2016 playoff opponents on its schedule with ease when it beat Dublin Jerome 35-0 on Sept. 1.

The way coach Nate Hillerich sees it, the Panthers’ next foe could be a strong candidate to make this year’s postseason even though it’s coming off a 5-5 finish and missed the playoffs the past two years.

On Friday, Sept. 8, North will travel to Centerville for a rematch of a game it won 49-21 at home last season in the first meeting between the programs.

The Elks and Panthers are among eight of the 18 teams in Division I, Region 2 to get off to 2-0 starts, with Centerville beating Fairfield 30-23 on Aug. 25 and West Chester Lakota West 42-21 on Sept. 1.

“They were only (5-5) last year, but they’re obviously a traditional power,” Hillerich said. “It’s going to be a great test for us. They’re definitely a potential playoff team.”

Centerville has qualified for the postseason 15 times, including making nine appearances from 2000-14 under former coach Ron Ullery.

Ullery’s son, 2003 Centerville graduate Brent Ullery, is a former Ohio State walk-on who took over as Elks coach during the offseason after serving as offensive coordinator. Brent Ullery also is a former Dublin Coffman assistant.

According to Hillerich, Centerville has switched from a wing-T to a spread offense.

Against Lakota West, senior quarterback Alec Grandin (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) completed eight of 14 passes for 120 yards, and Centerville scored three touchdowns on special teams.

Grandin threw touchdowns to junior wide receiver J.R. Melzer (6-1, 175) and senior slotback Jake Spiewak (6-4, 200) and also ran for a score against Fairfield.

The Elks also have a pair of college recruits on their defensive line in senior Jevon Henderson (6-4, 265), who has 13 football Bowl Subdivision offers, and senior Dylan Haller (6-4, 260), who has been offered by Indiana State and Tiffin.

North is coming off a game in which it gave up a program-record low 11 total yards to Jerome. Linebacker Nick Giardina had 19 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss, and lineman Alex Williams and linebacker Ben Johnson also were standouts on defense, according to Hillerich.

Quarterback Jimmy Weirick was 14-for-26 passing for 206 yards and three touchdowns, running back Kevaughn Robinson rushed for two scores and wide receiver Chris Scott had two touchdown receptions.

“Offensively, we had 11 penalties, but defensively, we only gave up three first downs on the night,” Hillerich said. “It was against a legitimate team.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek