SPRINGFIELD — The backbone for the Pickerington High School Central football team during its recent long postseason runs has been its defense, and that group of players was at its advantageous best Nov. 9 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal at Evans Stadium.

Facing a Clayton Northmont team averaging more than 35 points, the sixth-seeded Tigers produced a safety by Mike Dunlap and interception returns for touchdowns by DeWayne Carter, Terry Simuel and Jaquwon Crawford on their way to a 33-7 victory.

Central improved to 10-2 and advanced to face top-seeded Hilliard Davidson (11-1) in the regional final Nov. 16, while second-seeded Northmont finished 10-2.

“(Assistant) coach (Jeff) Lomonico preached that we need to have 14 points in defensive scores, so that’s what we were gravitating to, and basically being aggressive and hitting hard,” said Dunlap, a senior defensive lineman.

Northmont took a 7-0 lead with 3 minutes, 16 seconds left in the first quarter on a 5-yard run by quarterback Miles Johnson. The score was set up by a 29-yard pass from Johnson to Jazz Keys to the Tigers' 8 on third-and-11.

Central punter Justin Maynard pinned the Thunderbolts at the Northmont 1 to end the Tigers’ next possession.

On the next play, however, Dunlap tackled Northmont running back Michael Franklin in the end zone for a safety.

The Tigers began the ensuing drive at their own 45 and put together a 12-play, 55-yard drive capped by a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw with 5:57 left in the second quarter. Two plays before the score, Crenshaw ran for 8 yards on third-and-7 from the Northmont 13.

Central made it 16-7 on a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown by Simuel with 4:35 left before halftime.

“We knew we had to shut them out and they were going to try to go up high and every time they threw it up high we were going to take it from them,” Simuel said.

With 10:50 left in the third quarter, Carter returned an interception 11 yards for a touchdown to make it 23-7.

Drew Bookman made a 33-yard field goal with 3:52 to go in the third quarter to extend the Tigers’ lead to 26-7, and Crawford closed the scoring by returning an interception 70 yards for a touchdown with 9 minutes remaining.

Central limited Johnson to 10 yards on 10 carries and 6-for-17 passing for just 57 yards after he entered the game with 29 touchdown passes.

Jamir Jackson led the Tigers’ offense with 66 yards rushing on 14 carries. Crenshaw completed nine of 11 passes for 87 yards.

“They went out and performed,” Tigers coach Jay Sharrett said. “Our guys are playoff tested.”

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

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Team 1 2 3 4 Final PICKERINGTON CENTRAL 2 14 10 7 33 CLAYTON NORTHMONT
7 0 0 0 7

CN—Johnson 5 run (Goodwin kick)

PC—Safety, Franklin tackled in end zone

PC—Crenshaw 5 run (Bookman kick)

PC—Simuel 30 interception return (Bookman kick)

PC—Carter 11 interception return (Bookman kick)

PC—Bookman 33 FG

PC—Crawford 70 interception return (Bookman kick)