The Pickerington High School Central football team should be more than prepared for what it considers phase two of its regular-season schedule.

Although the Tigers lost to Trotwood-Madison 28-19 on Sept. 8 to fall to 2-1, that completed a three-game slate to begin the season that coach Jay Sharrett believes provided challenges because of its physical play and competitiveness.

On Friday, Sept. 15, Central plays the first of two games in the OCC crossover portion of its schedule when it travels to Groveport.

The Tigers and Cruisers have met each season since 1981, with Central holding a 27-8 lead in the series that includes 26 consecutive wins. The Tigers’ last loss to Groveport came in the 1990 season opener, 14-7.

“It would have been nice to have won our first three games, but we went 2-1 and played three physical games and (didn’t) have any over-the-top injuries,” Sharrett said. “We had three weeks of just hard campaigning with us playing (Detroit) Cass Tech (and winning 24-21 on Aug. 24) and (Indianapolis) Cathedral (and winning 25-20 on Sept. 1). Now we’re starting on our OCC crossover games.”

While Cass Tech followed its loss to Central at the University of Toledo with two victories, Cathedral is 1-3 but averages 29.3 points and has had all three of its losses come by seven points or fewer.

Trotwood-Madison, which was the Division III state runner-up last year and is off to a 3-0 start, totaled 376 yards, including 192 on the ground, against the Tigers.

Groveport, meanwhile, lost to Thomas Worthington 47-13 on Sept. 8 to drop to 0-3.

After the loss to the Cardinals, Cruisers coach Bryan Schoonover acknowledged to ThisWeekSPORTS.com that Groveport is “an awfully young team.”

Against Thomas, running back Emmanuel Anthony rushed for 92 yards on 10 carries, running back Wayne Blackshear had 66 yards rushing and a touchdown and quarterback Jacob Huffman hit wide receiver Cody Wilson for a 7-yard touchdown pass.

Senior wide receiver and defensive back Izayah Aekins, who had 69 receptions for 1,056 yards last season and scored a touchdown in Central’s 45-14 victory a year ago, injured his right ankle in the preseason and is expected to miss the entire season.

Against Trotwood-Madison, running back Jamir Jackson ran 11 times for 73 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw rushed for 39 yards and passed for 153 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tigers.

“We’ll just try to switch gears and stay regimented,” Sharrett said.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek