CINCINNATI - Jalen Mitchell knew he had to keep his head straight when the game was on the line for the Pickerington High School Central football team during its opener Aug. 27 in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown in Nippert Stadium.

CINCINNATI - Jalen Mitchell knew he had to keep his head straight when the game was on the line for the Pickerington High School Central football team during its opener Aug. 27 in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Showdown in Nippert Stadium.

With his team holding a six-point lead over Cincinnati Elder, Mitchell was whistled for a helmet-to-helmet personal foul on fourth-and-8 from the Tigers' 28 with four minutes remaining.

Central forced a fourth-and-goal from its 11-yard line four plays later and Mitchell again was in the middle of the action, but this time he knocked down a pass to help seal a 20-14 victory.

"I just told everybody to keep their heads up," Mitchell said. "We knew if they got a touchdown that they'd win the game. I was pretty upset (after the personal foul), but I didn't want my teammates to see me like that."

The Tigers, who were ranked first in ThisWeekSPORTS.com's preseason Super 7, built a two-touchdown lead during the second quarter and then leaned on their defense to make big plays throughout the second half.

Central's defense got interceptions from Dalton Stefanitsis and Te' Cogar-Howard and recovered two fumbles.

"I couldn't be more proud of them," coach Jay Sharrett said of his team.

Central took a 6-0 lead on a 4-yard run by Darius Coker with 6:30 left in the opening quarter. The Tigers began the possession at the Elder 13 after a 23-yard punt return by Xavier Henderson and a facemask penalty on the Panthers during the return.

Elder took a 7-6 lead with 8:31 left in the second quarter on a 10-yard pass from Danny Nieman to Adam Schwallie, but the Tigers retook the lead at 13-7 on a 4-yard touchdown run by Jermycole Graham with 5:08 left in the half.

After Central stretched its lead to 20-7 on a 2-yard touchdown run by Morgan Ellison in the third quarter, Elder took advantage of a special teams error by the Tigers when Nick Niehaus recovered a fumble in the end zone during a punt return with 4:36 left in the quarter to make it 20-14.

Elder held the ball for more than eight minutes during its final scoring chance in the fourth quarter after taking over at its own 13.

In between the personal foul call and the batted pass by Mitchell, the Panthers were stopped for a 1-yard loss and threw incomplete twice into the end zone.

"(Mitchell) is a kid you're talking about who loves to play football," Sharrett said. "He learned how to lead this defense from (2016 graduate) Seth Currens last year."

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Team 1 2 3 4 Final PICKERINGTON CENTRAL
6 7 7 0 20 CINCINNATI ELDER
0 7 7 0 14

PC-Coker 4 run (kick blocked)

CE-Schwallie 10 pass from Nieman (Harmeyer kick)

PC-Graham 4 run (Vollmer kick)

PC-Ellison 2 run (Vollmer kick)

CE-Niehaus fumble recovery in end zone (Harmeyer kick)

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