As it has done most of this season, the Pickerington High School Central football team used stingy defense Sept. 27 to control its OCC-Ohio Division opener at home against Gahanna Lincoln.

Special teams also were a plus for the Tigers as they started three drives deep in Lions territory as a result of good returns, with those returns setting up two scores that helped Central win 27-13 in a game televised on the CW Columbus.

“Throughout the whole game, we had great stops and were coming up big when it mattered,” said Tigers senior defensive lineman Karter Johnson, who transferred from Gahanna during the offseason. “It’s always a great rivalry and it’s always going to be tough going against old friends.”

Central is 6-0 for the first time since 2014 and extended its winning streak against the Lions to 16 games. Gahanna dropped to 3-3.

Lorenzo Styles Jr. had one of the game’s biggest plays, a 55-yard punt return that set up Central’s third touchdown with five minutes left in the first half.

“We’ve played great defense all year,” Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. “We knew our field would play a part in it and it limits some things we want to do, but we ask them to perform each week and this was a short prep week and here were are 6-0 and 1-0 in the conference.”

Gahanna got to within 21-13 with a play on special teams and a long touchdown pass.

With 5:48 left, Central punter Justin Maynard was tackled in the end zone for a safety after a poor snap to make it 21-5.

Then on Gahanna’s first play of the ensuing possession, quarterback Will Thomas hit Major Brown on a 53-yard touchdown pass. Thomas then connected with Justus Harris on a pass for the two-point conversion to make it 21-13.

Central, however, sealed the win with a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw in the final minute.

The Tigers scored on the game’s opening drive and never trailed.

After Terry Simuel returned a punt to the Lions 7, Crenshaw hit Styles Jr. on a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Central a 7-0 lead.

The Tigers scored on the third play of their second possession as well, with Jamir Jackson running for a 46-yard touchdown.

Gahanna put together its first positive drive early in the second quarter, moving from its own 20 to the Tigers 11 before Tyler Koss kicked a 28-yard field goal to cut the Central lead to 14-3.

The Tigers started the ensuing drive at the Lions 30 after the long return by Styles Jr. and scored on the third play of the possession when Crenshaw hit Jaquwon Crawford on a 33-yard touchdown pass on third-and-13 with 3:40 left in the first half.

“I’m proud of the way our kids fight and continue to get better week by week,” Lions coach Bruce Ward said.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

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Team 1 2 3 4 Final GAHANNA LINCOLN 0 3 0 10 13 PICKERINGTON CENTRAL
14 7 0 6 27

PC—Styles Jr. 10 pass from Crenshaw (Bookman kick)

PC—Jackson 46 run (Bookman kick)

GL—Koss 28 FG

PC—Crawford 33 pass from Crenshaw (Bookman kick)

GL—Safety, Maynard tackled in end zone

GL—Brown 53 pass from Thomas (Harris pass from Thomas)

PC—Crenshaw 1 run (kick failed)