The highly-anticipated first meeting between the Pickerington High School Central and North football teams didn't end up being very competitive, as the Tigers cruised to a 38-7 victory last Friday at Columbus Crew Stadium.

The highly-anticipated first meeting between the Pickerington High School Central and North football teams didn't end up being very competitive, as the Tigers cruised to a 38-7 victory last Friday at Columbus Crew Stadium.

Yet, both coaches agreed that it was a great event for everyone who participated in it, as well as the 10,000-plus fans who attended the game.

"Getting the opportunity to play in such a big venue in front of so many people is great for our kids and their kids," said Central coach Jay Sharrett, whose squad is 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division. "We just tried to approach this game like it was our second league game against a Division I opponent who has three wins and will get us a lot of computer points.

"But there's no question that this was a special atmosphere to play a high school football game in, and a special game for our community."

North coach Tom Phillips said the week leading up to the game was the highlight for the Panthers.

Game sponsor Nike filmed the Panthers before and after practices throughout the week, as part of a Midwest high school football promotion.

Nike also donated several items to North, including a banner, hitboard, lockerroom magnets, T-shirts, meals and a two-toned victory bell, which the game's winner will take home each year.

"Nike did a nice promotion with us and they were careful to stay out of our practice plans to avoid being any type of distraction to us," said Phillips, whose squad is 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio. "What a top-notch organization. This is something our kids are going to remember for the rest of their lives."

The vast majority of Central's fans wore white clothes and the majority of North's fans wore black outfits, matching their teams' uniform colors for this game.

Central senior linebacker-fullback Zach Boren, who transfered from North midway through his sophomore season, scored on runs of four and three yards to help the Tigers build a 14-0 halftime lead.

"It's an amazing feeling to play well against these guys who I know so well," Boren said.

"It felt great to score a couple of touchdowns, but I've got to give my offensive line the credit, because I wouldn't have made it there without them."

Nick Raymond was 8-for-16 passing for 143 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown to Jared Miller, which put Central ahead 24-0 early in the fourth quarter. Tyler Hammond led Central with 96 yards rushing on 14 carries. He scored on a 12-yard run to make it 38-0 midway through the fourth period.

North was led by Sean Flaherty, who was 17-for-28 passing for 92 yards and rushed for 26 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

North tight end-wide receiver Alex Bayer said the big-game atmosphere was a bit overwhelming.

"This was like nothing we've ever played in before," Bayer said. "The fans were going crazy and I know I was real nervous walking out there for warmups. This stadium goes all the way around and it's a lot bigger than anything we've ever played in before. This game is the only thing anyone talked about in school all week, and we've never had this much attention before."

Central, which has qualified to the playoffs seven of the past nine seasons, has been in its share of big games recently. In 2006, the Tigers reached the Division II state championship game, which it lost to Piqua 26-7.

After he finished ringing the Tigers' newly-acquired victory bell in front of an enthusiastic student section, Central linebacker-offensive lineman Max Holbrook said playing in front of such a large crowd was an advantage for his squad.

"Several of us played in that state championship game as sophomores and it prepared us for this," Holbrook said. "The crowd was so loud that we couldn't hear Nick on the snap count and we ended up getting called for a few false starts because of it. But we're used to this kind of atmosphere and we're expecting to see more of it once we get back to the playoffs."

Last game


•Star: Central fullback-linebacker Zach Boren, who rushed for 50 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries and helped the Tigers limit North to 104 total yards

•Key play: Trailing 7-0 late in the second quarter, North faced a fourth-and-5 at Central's 24-yard line and North quarterback Sean Flaherty threw an incomplete pass in the end zone to thwart that drive. The Tigers then scored a touchdown to lead 14-0 at halftime.

•Key stat: Central held North to 12 rushing yards on 18 carries.