PIQUA — The Pickerington High School Central football team’s quest for back-to-back Division I state championships ended with a 28-14 loss to Cincinnati Colerain in a state semifinal Nov. 23 at Piqua.

The Tigers finished 11-3, while Colerain improved to 14-0 and will play Lakewood St. Edward (10-3) in the state final Nov. 30 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton.

The Cardinals, who have dominated opponents throughout the season, took a 14-0 lead into halftime before withstanding Central’s second-half comeback attempt.

The Tigers pulled within seven points twice in the second half, but were unable to draw even.

“We dug our feet harder in the ground and found a way to get a score on the board and then found another way to get a score on the board,” said Central coach Jay Sharrett, whose team won its first state title a year ago. “You have to tip your hat. When they needed a score, they got one, and that’s what they got us on.”

The Cardinals scored on their first possession, with Ivan Pace Jr. capping an 11-play, 51-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 5 minutes, 28 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Colerain stretched its lead to 14-0 with 2:06 left in the second quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run by quarterback Deante Smith-Moore. The score was set up by a 31-yard pass from Smith-Moore to J.J. Davis.

Central began its first two drives of the second half in Colerain territory, and after Drew Bookman missed a 37-yard field-goal attempt on the first possession, the Tigers converted on their second chance as Jamir Jackson scored on a 2-yard run to make it 14-7 with 1:29 left in third quarter.

Colerain answered with a 3-yard touchdown run by Pace to increase its lead to 21-7, but the Tigers again pulled within a touchdown when Lorenzo Styles Jr. scored on a 25-yard screen pass from quarterback Demeatric Crenshaw midway through the fourth quarter.

Colerain, however, sealed the outcome with a 1-yard touchdown run by Smith-Moore with 1:16 remaining to avenge a 41-28 loss to Central in a state semifinal last season.

Pace rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries to lead the Cardinals, while Crenshaw led Central with 62 yards rushing on 17 carries.

“We don’t give up,” Crenshaw said. “We fight as long as we can. When it’s over, then it’s over. You beat us and we tip our hats to you, but it’s never over until it’s over.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

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Team 1 2 3 4 Final CINCINNATI COLERAIN 7 7 0 14 28 PICKERINGTON CENTRAL
0 0 7 7 14

CC—Pace Jr. 2 run (Mangold kick)

CC—Smith-Moore 4 run (Mangold kick)

PC—Jackson 2 run (Bookman kick)

CC—Pace Jr. 3 run (Mangold kick)

PC—Styles Jr. 25 pass from Crenshaw (Bookman kick)

CC—Smith-Moore 1 run (Mangold kick)