The Pickerington High School North football team will get a second shot at one of the state's biggest bounce-back stories when it plays Centerville on Friday, Nov. 10, in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal at Evans Stadium in Springfield.
On Sept. 8, the fifth-seeded Panthers got a firsthand look at the top-seeded Elks, and the difference between the teams was a missed extra point.
Centerville's Brandon Walters made a 22-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to give his team a 27-26 victory, handing the Panthers one of their two losses.
Last season, the Elks finished 5-5.
"Centerville was a team we lost to on a last-second field goal, and they're a disciplined team with a lot of heavily recruited kids," coach Nate Hillerich said.
"It's going to be a battle in Week 2 (of the playoffs). It's going to be interesting."
North is 9-2 after winning 41-20 at fourth-seeded Huber Heights Wayne in a first-round game Nov. 3. That same night, the Elks improved to 10-1 by beating eighth-seeded Hilliard Darby 35-0 in their playoff opener.
The semifinal winner plays second-seeded Hilliard Brad-ley or third-seeded Pickerington Central in the regional final Nov. 17.
In the first matchup this season, North quarterback Jimmy Weirick and Centerville quarterback Alec Grandin had similar stat lines through the air: Weirick was 15-for-27 passing for 185 yards with two touchdowns and Grandin was 18-for-27 for 212 yards with two scores.
What has helped Weirick stand apart this season has been his running ability, and he ran for 110 yards and one score on 14 carries against the Elks.
Grandin has completed 168 of 263 passes for 2,137 yards with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing for 314 yards and six scores. Weirick is 139-for-268 passing for 2,316 yards with 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and has rushed for 915 yards and 11 scores.
"Their quarterback is really good and can run and throw," Hillerich said. "It's going to be a challenge."
North held the Elks to 43 yards rushing, but senior wide receiver Jake Spiewak had eight receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown and senior wide receiver Donovan Shelton added 48 yards and one score.
Senior running back Ross Harmon is Centerville's leading rusher with 620 yards and five touchdowns. Spiewak has 60 catches for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns and Shelton has 45 receptions for 586 yards and five scores.
North's top wide receiver, senior Ty Wiley, had eight catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns against Wayne and has 57 receptions for 1,079 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season.
Junior wide receiver Jaylon Baylor has 24 catches for 339 yards and six touchdowns and junior tight end Tyler Foster has 23 catches for 286 yards and five scores.
Also against Wayne, junior running back Larry Martin topped 100 yards rushing for the second time this season.
He finished the game with 105 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries to give him 518 yards and six scores on the season.
"My (offensive) line has been doing their job and I've been working right off of them," Martin said.
North and Centerville both have a Division I recruit on the defensive line. Panthers senior Alex Williams has committed to West Virginia, while Centerville senior Jevon Henderson is a Bowling Green commit.
North's linebacker corps of senior Nick Giardina (10.5 tackles for loss), junior Ben Johnson (23 tackles for loss) and freshman Jack Sawyer (15.5 tackles for loss), as well as senior Ball State-commit Tyler Potts in the secondary, have led the way defensively.
Another player of note for Centerville on defense is Sam Vance, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound senior who sees time at end and linebacker and has an offer from Ball State.