There won't be many secrets when the Pickerington Central and North high school football teams play for the Division I, Region 3 championship Friday, Nov. 17, at DeSales considering they'll be meeting for the fourth time in 13 months.
That doesn't necessarily signal that the outcome of the last three meetings -- all won by the Tigers -- will be the same.
At least, that's the hope for the Panthers, who lost to Central 24-21 on Oct. 13 and are 3-10 all-time against the Tigers.
Last year, Central beat North 17-14 during the regular season and 38-24 in a regional semifinal.
"We both know what the other has," Panthers coach Nate Hillerich said. "Any big game like this, we've told our kids that you can look back and it will come down to about four or five plays that will change the outcome. They've got a great team and a great coach, and we've got to make that play in the moment."
The Central-North winner advances to a state semifinal Nov. 24. The other regional finals Nov. 17 pit Cleveland St. Ignatius against Mentor (Region 1), Toledo Whitmer against Olentangy Liberty (Region 2) and Cincinnati St. Xavier against Cincinnati Colerain (Region 4).
The pairings for the state semifinals on Nov. 24 have yet to be determined.
The Tigers are seeded third in Region 3 and take an 11-1 record into the matchup.
On Oct. 13, Central built a 21-7 lead and watched the Panthers rally to tie the score at 21 before scoring the game-winning points on a 38-yard field goal by Cameron Cubra with 10 minutes, 18 seconds left.
The Tigers edged the Panthers 363-360 in total yards.
In regional semifinals Nov. 10, Central beat second-seeded Hilliard Bradley 42-31 at DeSales, while fifth-seeded North improved to 10-2 by defeating top-seeded Centerville 42-12 at Springfield.
With the win, the Panthers avenged a 27-26 loss to the Elks on Sept. 8.
North senior quarterback Jimmy Weirick, who was named district Offensive Player of the Year and has thrown for 2,526 yards and 32 touchdowns while also rushing for 982 yards and 12 touchdowns, completed 17 of 41 passes for 239 yards and two scores and ran for 71 yards against Central.
The Panthers also have one of central Ohio's top receivers in senior Ty Wiley, who has 61 catches for 1,228 yards and 17 touchdowns, and an improving ground game that includes junior running back Larry Martin, who has rushed for 596 yards and six touchdowns.
Against Centerville, Weirick passed for three touchdowns and ran for one score and Wiley had four receptions for 149 yards and two scores as the Panthers outgained the Elks 379-215 in total yards.
The Tigers are led defensively by senior safety Xavier Henderson, who was named district Defensive Player of the Year for the second year in a row and had one touchdown reception and one rushing touchdown against Bradley.
Central intercepted Bradley quarterback Josh Stewart, who was a first-team all-district selection, four times. Jaquwon Crawford had two interceptions and Grey Brancifort and Jeremiah Wood each had one. Wood returned his 21 yards for a touchdown.
"We took on a very good Bradley team," Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. "I was pretty proud of my guys."
Central sophomore quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw rushed 14 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns and completed two of five passes for 89 yards, including an 82-yard score to Henderson, against the Jaguars, who finished 11-1. Junior running back Jamir Jackson rushed for 82 yards and one touchdown.
On the season, Crenshaw has rushed for 978 yards and 11 touchdowns and Jackson has run for 779 yards and 15 scores.
On Oct. 13, Crenshaw rushed for 144 yards and one score, threw one touchdown apiece to Tristan Peppers and Henderson and was intercepted once by North's Tyler Potts.
Potts also had an interception against Centerville, giving him four for the season. Eli Davis had two interceptions and Tyrik Carter had one against the Elks, who finished 10-2.
"We knew if we played to our potential, we really liked the matchup (against Centerville)," Hillerich said.
Sharrett wouldn't be surprised if the game against North has a much different feel than the one on Oct. 13, given that both teams have played four games since that matchup.
He's hoping his team has better ball security after losing two fumbles against Bradley.
"It ought to be quite a game," Sharrett said. "There's been enough distance between the first time we played and now that both teams have modified things they do. I think both teams are different than they were a month ago. It's a natural progression throughout the season."