The Pickerington High School Central football team was a state runner-up in both 2006 and 2011, but one of its biggest sources of pride over the last decade has been one of its regular-season accomplishments.

The Pickerington High School Central football team was a state runner-up in both 2006 and 2011, but one of its biggest sources of pride over the last decade has been one of its regular-season accomplishments.

If the Tigers can win their final two regular-season games, they will extend a streak of winning at least a share of an OCC championship that now stands at 10 years.

Part of that task comes Friday, Oct. 21, when Central plays at Reynoldsburg, but that part of the equation isn't expected to be easy.

While the Tigers are 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division and seem to be on their way to a Division I, Region 3 playoff berth, the Raiders are 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the league.

Reynoldsburg would move into a first-place tie atop the league with a win, but it also hopes to make the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time in program history.

The Raiders' only previous playoff berths came in 2001 and last season, and they are projected to be ninth in Region 3 heading into the Central game. The top eight teams make the playoffs.

"These games are fun to prepare for, and I don't know that a Reynoldsburg-Pickerington Central game has ever had more on the line than this one will," Raiders coach Buddy White said. "Mathematically if we lose we won't be out of it, but we really want to go to the playoffs for the second year in a row, on top of the fact that it's the (Route) 256 rivalry."

The teams have met every year since 1981, and the Tigers have won the last 15 meetings.

Central, which closes the regular season Oct. 28 at home against winless Grove City, rallied from a 7-0 halftime deficit to beat Pickerington North 17-14 on Oct. 14 for its third consecutive victory.

The Tigers put together a 16-play, 93-yard drive to begin the second half and scored 17 consecutive points before holding off a rally attempt.

"We've had some tough ballgames," coach Jay Sharrett said. "To their credit and to the coaching staff's credit, we had a 90-yard plus touchdown drive."

The Raiders have taken strides defensively, according to White, since losing 31-0 to North on Sept. 30.

Reynoldsburg's biggest test against Central could be in stopping senior running back Morgan Ellison, who has rushed for 922 yards and nine touchdowns.

Senior quarterback Darius Coker has rushed for 255 yards and three touchdowns and has passed for 688 yards and two scores.

"Our run defense is still a work in progress," White said. "(Central runs) the ball quite well and we've got to step up."

The Tigers also have shown an improved defense since enduring their only loss, a 35-29 overtime setback Sept. 23 at Upper Arlington.

Although Central gave up 305 yards to North, the Tigers held Panthers quarterback Jimmy Weirick to 175 yards passing, 80 below his average.

Central's Xavier Henderson had two interceptions to give him four for the season.

"Any time you can get a good rivalry win it boosts your confidence," Henderson said.

Reynoldsburg, meanwhile, has focused on having a more balanced offense since its loss to North.

In a 34-13 win over Grove City on Oct. 14, Tyler Frederick rushed for 141 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries and Nathan Barko was 9-for-16 passing for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

The play of an offensive line featuring Colin Dwenger and Joe Boggs at tackle, Tion Benjamin and Kyle Haw-thorne at guard and Tyler Grant at center also has been key, according to White.

"They've always been there, but we just had to change some schemes," White said.

"Now with our running game, we're becoming more consistent."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek