For most of the game’s first 45 minutes against Pickerington North, the host Gahanna Lincoln High School football team kept one of central Ohio’s best passing games in check.
But then a pair of 15-yard penalties on the Panthers’ final possession seemed to breathe new life into a season that was on its way to expiring.
On third-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 17 seconds left, running back Larry Martin ran in for a touchdown to give North a 14-10 victory.
The win improved the Panthers to 6-4 overall and 2-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division, while at least temporarily keeping alive their Division I, Region 3 playoff hopes.
Gahanna dropped to 5-5 overall and finished 2-3 in the league but still has hopes of making the Division I, Region 2 playoffs.
“My line just sealed it together at the end to get me in the end zone,” Martin said. “We all knew we had to get in. The line said they had my back and they just got it done.”
On North’s final possession, Gahanna was whistled for a late hit and pass interference on back-to-back plays to move the Panthers to the Lions 44.
North quarterback Mike Lowery — who started for Gahanna the past two seasons before transferring back to North to play his senior season with the Panthers — then threw three completions, with one going for 14 yards to Tyler Foster and another going to Tim Cheatwood for 14 yards to move the ball to the Lions 3.
After Martin was stopped for no gain and Jaylon Baylor rushed for 1 yard, Martin ran for the game-winning score.
“At the beginning, it was (emotional), but my nerves kind of settled down and just started playing,” Lowery said. “It was crazy, but it was fun.”
After forcing North to punt on its opening drive, Gahanna took over at its own 10 with 5:50 left in the first quarter. On the first play of the possession, Justus Harris ran for 87 yards, with North’s Terrell West coming up with a touchdown-saving tackle at the 3.
The Lions settled for a 25-yard field goal by Tyler Koss, and their lead remained 3-0 at halftime.
Baylor returned the second-half kickoff 70 yards to the Gahanna 18. Lowery then hit Chris Scott for a touchdown on the next play to give North a 7-3 lead.
The Lions regained the lead on the next drive. Will Thomas completed passes of 12 yards to C.J. Kiss, 10 yards to Harris and 35 yards to Cam Morris to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Harris.
Harris finished with 160 yards rushing on 28 carries to lead the Lions, who limited Lowery to 13-for-24 passing for 118 yards.
“It was good, but it wasn’t good enough,” Lions coach Bruce Ward said. “When we get it down to the 3, we’ve got to punch it in. That’s on us. At the end of the day, they made more plays than we did.”
==========Team 1 2 3 4 Final PICKERINGTON NORTH 0 0 7 7 14 GAHANNA LINCOLN 3 0 7 0 10
GL—Koss 25 FG
PN—Scott 18 pass from Lowery (Pope kick)
GL—Harris 1 run (Koss kick)
PN—Martin 2 run (Pope kick)