With the first half of the high school football regular season behind us, it’s officially time to begin tracking league-title races, revisiting how secondary playoff points work and regularly clicking the refresh button on joeeitel.com after Friday night’s games.

The playoff races — particularly in Regions 2 and 3 of Division I and in Division III, Region 11 — should be especially compelling over the coming weeks.

Here are five things we learned from Week 5:

1. Pickerington North is much improved defensively compared to its regional semifinalist team from a year ago.

There might not have been a more impressive performance in Week 5 than the one the Panthers put together during a 42-0 victory over Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 22.

North entered the season with one of the area’s top returning quarterbacks in senior Jimmy Weirick, but its defense has been equally as strong. In addition to posting their second shutout, the Panthers gave up just 45 total yards.

2. Speaking of OCC-Ohio Division programs, five of its six teams have winning records.

North’s win, combined with Gahanna’s 34-32 victory over Dublin Coffman, came in two of the most anticipated games of the night.

The Panthers, Lions, Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg all are 4-1, while Lancaster improved to 3-2 with a 14-10 win over Hilliard Davidson.

3. Dublin Jerome has bounced back well from a rough start.

The Celtics got blown out by both Pickerington North (35-0 on Sept. 1) and Olentangy Orange (31-7 on Sept. 8) but have posted back-to-back wins, including beating Hilliard Darby 21-0 on Sept. 22.

Jerome used a 92-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Wil Intihar and a strong performance from quarterback Hayden Schell, who ran and threw for one touchdown apiece.

4. Grove City is enjoying a victory for the first time in more than 22 months.

The other OCC-Ohio team, Grove City, got 216 yards and three touchdowns from running back Devin Dukes in a 55-23 victory over Franklin Heights to improve to 1-4.

The win was the first under new coach Tennyson Varney and snapped the Dawgs’ 16-game losing streak. Varney was Franklin Heights’ coach last season.

5. The league with the most undefeated teams in the area remains the City League-South with three.

Walnut Ridge, Independence and Marion-Franklin all are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the league.

The Scots had the toughest time staying unbeaten Sept. 22, as they held off a late rally attempt by defending champion Eastmoor Academy to win 20-14 and secure the Bell Trophy.

Marion-Franklin beat Columbus West 42-21 and Independence defeated Africentric 74-40.

Briggs is another improved team at 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the City-South after going 2-8 a year ago.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek