With the Division I, Region 3 championship on the line, the latest matchup between the Pickerington Central and North high school football teams had possibly more pregame hype than any in the history of the rivalry that stretches back to 2008.
The Tigers put together a few long plays on offense and played a consistent brand of hard-nosed defense to turn it into an anticlimactic affair, as they won 31-14 on Nov. 17 at DeSales.
Central improved to 12-1 and advanced to a second consecutive state semifinal, where it will play Cincinnati Colerain on Nov. 24.
North finished 10-3, with two of its losses coming against the Tigers.
“We didn’t get a big head about the whole rivalry situation and we just played our game,” Tigers quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw’s multi-faceted abilities were key in helping Central build an early lead.
With 7 minutes, 31 seconds left in the opening quarter, Crenshaw found a hole up the middle and sprinted past the North defense for a 71-yard touchdown run.
The Panthers tied it on the ensuing drive when quarterback Jimmy Weirick hit Chris Scott for a 19-yard touchdown with 4 minutes to go in the first period.
On the second play of Central’s next drive, however, Crenshaw hooked up with Terry Simuel down the left side of the field and Simuel ran for a 59-yard touchdown to make it 14-7.
Central took a 17-7 lead into halftime after Cameron Cubra made a 25-yard field goal with 5:24 left in the second quarter.
On the opening possession of the third quarter, the Tigers made it 24-7 as Crenshaw ran for a 1-yard touchdown. Earlier in that drive, Central’s Xavier Henderson completed a halfback pass to Tristan Peppers for 37 yards.
The Tigers then forced their third turnover on North’s ensuing drive as Jaquwon Crawford intercepted a pass by Weirick at the Central 38.
“Their defense is unbelievable (and) their defensive front is great,” North coach Nate Hillerich said. “They did a great job mixing it up on us.”
Central outgained North 319-255 in total yards and caused four turnovers, as Henderson also had an interception and Isaiah O’Connor and Grey Brancifort added fumble recoveries.
The Tigers beat North 24-21 on Oct. 13 and now hold an 11-3 advantage in the series with six consecutive victories.
The game was called with 50 seconds remaining after a brief benches-clearing brawl occurred.
“We won our second consecutive regional championship, and it feels pretty good,” Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said.
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final PICKERINGTON NORTH 7 0 0 7 14 PICKERINGTON CENTRAL
14 3 7 7 31
PC—Crenshaw 71 run (Cubra kick)
PN—Scott 19 pass from Weirick (Shalawylo kick)
PC—Simuel 59 pass from Crenshaw (Cubra kick)
PC—Cubra 25 FG
PC—Crenshaw 1 run (Cubra kick)
PN—Foster 19 pass from Weirick (Shalawylo kick)
PC—Crenshaw 11 run (Cubra kick)