The success the Pickerington High School Central football team has experienced in league play over the past decade backs up the assertion that it knows how to turn up the heat at the most crucial times.

There's just something, though, about going against the current alignment of teams in the OCC-Ohio Division that feels incomparable to the Tigers.

Central is 6-0 overall and 1-0 in the league entering its contest at Lancaster on Friday, Oct. 5.

"We love the physicality of the (opposing league) teams," junior linebacker Dom Marasco said. "It makes football fun."

The Tigers, who have earned at least a share of 12 consecutive league championships, extended their string of league victories to 16 when they beat Gahanna 27-13 on Sept. 27 in a game televised on the CW Columbus.

The last time Central lost a league game was in 2015 when it opened the then eight-team OCC-Ohio schedule with a 20-14 loss at Lancaster and had to win its final six games to secure the league title.

Extending that league winning streak, as well as adding to its string of 18 consecutive victories overall, will be Central's next test.

The Tigers find themselves in a week where they may need to make more adjustments than usual.

Senior running back Jamir Jackson had nine carries for 91 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown, against Gahanna, but aggravated a foot injury that has hindered him at times this fall. On the season, he has rushed for 415 yards and five touchdowns on 74 carries.

In addition, sophomore H-back Tyler Turnbull, who has been crucial to the Tigers' blocking scheme, sustained an ankle injury against the Lions that could be serious, according to coach Jay Sharrett.

"We're happy to be 6-0 and 1-0 (in the league), but we have to figure out what our injuries are," Sharrett said. "The field conditions (against Gahanna) hurt us offensively because of our speed and it limited our speed a little bit, and to their credit they tackled us well."

Central, which led Gahanna 21-3 at halftime before the Lions rallied to within one score, used Lance Matthews, Nick Mosley and Sirron Smith at running back for most of the game's remainder after Jackson exited.

Lancaster enters the matchup at 3-3 overall and 1-0 in the league after beating Grove City 50-14 on Sept. 18. The Golden Gales opened with three consecutive losses, but those teams are a combined 14-4.

After blowing out Newark 62-0 on Sept. 14, Lancaster rallied to beat Upper Arlington 29-28 on Sept. 21.

Of note in that contest is that Gales quarterback Tyler Monk threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Young with 6 seconds remaining and then hit A.J. Cook for the two-point conversion pass for the victory.

Typically a wing-T power running team, Lancaster is throwing more than it has in recent years.

Monk is 40-for-73 passing for 804 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions and has rushed 27 times for 112 yards. He's attempted more passes than Central quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw, who has completed 34 of 63 passes for 638 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

Casey Finck has 17 catches for 408 yards and six touchdowns for the Gales.

Lucas Gauerke has 259 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 58 carries for Lancaster but did not have any rushes against Grove City. Alex Widener (116 yards rushing, 3 TDs), Cook (96 yards, 1 TD) and Jake Richards (277 yards, 5 TDs) also are key ball carriers.

"We've played great defense all year against different types of offenses," Sharrett said. "We played a great defensive game against Hilliard Davidson, which was a totally different offense than (Gahanna). (Defensive coordinator Jeff) Lomonico gets them in the right positions to do the right thing."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek