SPRINGFIELD — After squandering an early drive and good field position in the first quarter, the fifth-seeded Pickerington High School North football team scored 28 points in the second quarter en route to a 42-12 victory over top-seeded Centerville in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal Nov. 10 at Evans Field.
The win avenged a 27-26 loss to the Elks on Sept. 28, when Centerville scored 10 points in the final 3 minutes to rally.
Next up will be another rematch, this one with Pickerington Central for a berth in a state semifinal. The Panthers and Tigers will meet Nov. 17 in the regional final.
“We were inside (Centerville’s) 10-yard line three times in the first meeting and came away with three points, so we knew we didn’t play our best,” said North coach Nate Hillerich, whose team improved to 10-2. “We started this game like that, getting the ball down inside their 10 and didn’t score. It was like a bad flashback.
“But we got on the board in the middle of the second quarter and then the defense stepped up and got two pick-6s and we were on our way. I thought our defense was exceptional tonight. We’ve got playmakers on both sides of the ball and all over the field.”
North’s first three possessions reached Centerville territory, but it wasn’t until 6:52 remained in the second quarter that the Panthers got rolling, as Jack Sawyer caught a tipped pass for a 14-yard touchdown from quarterback Jimmy Weirick.
North then scored three touchdowns in the final 4:41 of the half, starting with Eli Davis intercepting a screen pass and returning it 14 yards for a score. Weirick then connected with Ty Wiley on a 52-yard touchdown pass, and on the next play from scrimmage, Tyler Potts intercepted a pass in the middle of the field and went down the right sideline to score on a 57-yard return.
“I think the offense was struggling a bit early, but when we got the interception returns, it really lit us up,” Wiley said. “People do like to talk about our offense, but we’ve got a great, great defense and we all can make plays.”
Centerville, which finished 10-2, tried an onside kick to begin the second half, but the Panthers recovered and went 49 yards in six plays to take a 35-0 lead on Weirick’s 15-yard run up the middle. The score triggered a running clock.
The Elks scored the next 12 points and had the ball at North’s 30-yard line with 11 minutes left after a high snap on a punt, but Davis came up with his second interception of the game.
Two plays later, Weirick tossed a short pass to Wiley, who darted away from defenders down the sideline for a 90-yard touchdown to seal the outcome.
“It always feels great to make big plays and that’s what my teammates rely on me to do. It’s my job,” said Wiley, who had 150 yards and two touchdowns on three receptions. “We all have to do what we do best.”
Weirick finished 8-for-18 passing for 211 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 67 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final PICKERINGTON NORTH 0 28 7 7 42 CENTERVILLE
0 0 12 0 12
PN—Sawyer 14 pass from Weirick (Shalawylo kick)
PN—Davis 14 interception return (Shalawylo kick)
PN—Wiley 52 pass from Weirick (Shalawylo kick)
PN—Potts 57 interception return (Shalawylo kick)
PN—Weirick 15 run (Shalawylo kick)
C—Shelton 10 pass from Grandin (pass failed)
C—Shelton 24 pass from Grandin (pass failed)
PN—Wiley 90 pass from Weirick (Shalawylo kick)