Despite playing without two key players, the Hilliard Davidson High School football team put up a good fight against defending Division I state champion Pickerington Central in the Region 3 final Nov. 16 at Gahanna before falling 20-13.

The top-seeded Wildcats, who finished 11-2, played without leading rusher Jordan Hicks and leading tackler Evan Annis. Both were out with a concussion.

Hicks had 832 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns on 179 carries and Annis had 120 tackles through 12 games.

With Hicks out, Kalib O’Connor took on a more prominent role in the offense, rushing for 182 yards on 26 carries.

“We just continued to run the option, so we just continued to run it and push it down their throat and it was working,” O’Connor said. “We did all we could. We did our best. All the boys fought. Linemen fought hard, defense fought hard. Everyone did their part. We just came up a little short.”

Davidson trailed 20-10 in the fourth quarter before staging a late comeback attempt.

After kicking a 27-yard field goal to pull the Wildcats to within 20-13 with 3 minutes, 27 seconds to play, Sean Carrier recovered the ensuing onside kick to give Davidson the ball at its own 46-yard line.

The Wildcats, however, were unable to generate a drive, as quarterback Carson Felicetty’s long fourth-down pass was intercepted by Central’s Terry Simuel in the closing seconds.

Central, which was seeded sixth, improved to 11-2 and advanced to play Cincinnati Colerain in a state semifinal Friday, Nov. 23, at Piqua.

“Our guys will fight to the end no matter who their opponent is,” said Wildcats coach Brian White, whose team also lost to Central 17-14 in overtime Sept. 21. “Obviously, (Central’s) a really good team. Our kids came out and did what we knew they would do and that’s fight to the end and we just came up a little bit short.”

Central, which led 13-10 at halftime, amassed 253 yards rushing. Jamir Jackson had 97 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw completed two of six passes for 10 yards and rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

The Wildcats rushed for 224 yards, but Felicetty went just 3-for-11 passing for 61 yards.

Christian Sweet scored on a 3-yard run in the second quarter to give Davidson a 10-7 lead and Carrier made a 47-yard field goal in the first quarter to put the Wildcats ahead 3-0.